Sainsbury’s organises a self-service evening to educate customers on how to use the machines
09:17 19 June 2014
For shoppers far and wide, the dreaded words “unexpected item in the bagging area” are sometimes enough to put you off using a self-service checkout forever. However, one supermarket has decided to tackle customers’ frustrations with the tills head on – by organising an “educational” session to help people master their anxieties about them once and for all.
Your opinions of self-service tills
• Amanda Johnston, 59, from Brooke: “I can see the benefit, but once you get stuck because of an unrecognised item it gets annoying and they’re no quicker than a checkout person without a queue.”
• Anna Hart, 53, from Lowestoft: “Normally I’m very pleased to get through without getting any help. I think they’re just doing it to put people out of jobs. It’d be sad to see no assistants in the supermarket.”
• Bernard Humphreys, 57, from Dereham: “I’m completely technology-illiterate but I find them quite easy to use. I rarely have any problems, unless it’s a reduced item and it doesn’t scan properly.”
• Alison Dwight, 45, from Yaxham: “They talk too loud and they’re bossy. And very often you have to get an assistant because something’s gone wrong. But then it’s good to have assistants on the tills because people need jobs. If there was no queue I would rather go to the person.”
• Rachael Ducker, 28, from Halesworth: “I think they’re great until they go wrong. I’d prefer to go to a machine over a person, you don’t have to deal with any grumpy assistants.”
Jason Symonds organised “customer listening” activities when he took over as manager of Attleborough Sainsbury’s, in the town’s High Street, about five months ago.
“The biggest thing that came up was around self-service checkouts – either people saying they didn’t like them, the woman was shouting too loud or that they felt they were keeping people out of a job,” he said.
So he has arranged to lead an advice and guidance session in store at 7pm on Friday, July 11.
With coffee and biscuits for refreshments, the light-hearted evening aims to help customers tackle their bugbears and show them why the machines behave in the way that they do.
“A lot of people don’t understand that there is a scale on the other side which is there to weigh the products,” Mr Symonds explained.
“A common problem is that someone will be holding a bag and putting their items in.”
He added that if people do not place their items in the bagging area, the till will stop functioning in a bid to deter those who might be trying to steal. “As long as people put it down in the bagging area, it will register,” he said.
Another common problem is the machines breaking down – but Mr Symonds said this now happens far less frequently, as the Attleborough Sainsbury’s has invested in the latest technology.
Other gripes include not being able to find items which do not have a barcode, such as loose fruit, vegetables and cakes, on the till’s computer system.
Mr Symonds said the idea of the educational event was to give customers a full demonstration of where they could find everything from bananas to jam doughnuts, so they know where to find things in future.
Although some supermarkets have moved to having self-service only tills at certain times, Mr Symonds stressed that customers at his store always have the choice of going to a conventional checkout if they do not get on with self-service.
“They are purely put in for choice,” he said. “A lot of customers do want them. I am in my mid-30s and don’t use anything else, but there are also a lot of customers who say they don’t feel rushed as there is no-one standing behind them.
“However, we always have a minimum of three manned tills. We will never get rid of the normal tills.”
Mr Symonds also stressed no-one had lost their job as a result of self-service tills being installed. In fact, many stores allocate a member of staff specifically to help customers at self-service checkouts.
• Those interested in attending the educational event should contact the store on 01953 451095.
• Do you think self-service checkouts are a good idea or do you avoid them at all costs? Write, giving your full contact details, to: EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk