Self-service in supermarkets not always the best service


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Plastic shopping cartIn Manchester, Connecticut Big Y Foods, a chain of 61 supermarkets is phasing out the do-it-yourself grocery shopping check out aisles. What was supposed to revolutionize and speed up a trip to the grocery store seems to falling by the wayside in a trade for the human cashiers. In fact, market studies have shown shoppers do prefer the personal contact.

When the idea was first conceived, store owners had already been anticipating less overhead; surely many of the cashiers were going to be replaced by self-check-out scanners. After all, the self-check-outs are quite popular in Kmart, Home Depot, and Walmart. Supermarkets however seem to be different. For instance, if a shopper buys tomatoes, potatoes, wine, and bread, can a scanner get the customer checked out quicker than a cashier? Having tried it myself at a supermarket there was a bit of confusion. The scanner stopped at the wine purchase to ascertain if I was old enough, the scanner wouldn’t honor my coupons, and a mix-up on the type of tomatoes I purchased scanned the wrong price. A store manager rushed over and helped me, but that experience cost me time, and from then on I have preferred the live models.

Michael Tami, vice-president for information resources and technology for Big Y felt the automated lines were not providing exceptional customer service, so instead opted to return to the time honored tradition of humans saying, “Hello, have you found everything you needed?”

I also can’t forget the attachment, we as humans possess for the personal touch. Here in South Florida, Publix’ customer service includes someone always willing to help customers load their groceries into their cars. Even if it’s raining – a customer can use a huge green and white umbrella to get you to your car and then pull around to the front entrance and without even getting wet, someone has been waiting to pack up your trunk.

Self-service-checkout lines undoubtedly have a lot to do with demographics. Younger consumers have grown up with self-service lines, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t expecting superior customer service. As the trend forges ahead to using bar code readings on our Smartphones, another phase of innovation – hopefully the personal touch will still move the grocery lines along quicker and more efficiently.

photo credit: Polycart

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Cheryl Hanna
Service Untitled
Cheryl Hanna is a successful real estate sales person in Florida and has used her customer service knowledge and experience to set her apart and gain a competitive edge in a very difficult market. Cheryl has been writing professionally since 1999 and writes for several blogs and online publications


  1. . . . the question is, what is the idea? Cost savings (for retailers), or customer service. I have my own opinion: it has nothing to do with customer service, and everything to do with squeezing every penny out of a retailer’s operational costs.

    Whether we’ve approached a nadir of customer self-service remains to be seen. It’s telling that even the seemingly small gesture of Publix offering umbrellas to aid customers in rainy weather means so much today. There’s a great opportunity for customer service to rekindle–if customers demand it, and if retailers are motivated.

    A recent blog I wrote on this topic might be of interest to your readers, If this is the Future of Shopping, Heaven Help Us


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