Back in August I wrote in this column about the unwelcome replacement of human beings by machines in our supermarkets, self-service checkouts where customers are expected to do all of the work, so that the companies can sack their staff and further line the pockets of their shareholders.

Often the words which I write on these pages give rise to vigorous debate in the bottom half of the internet. 

That’s fine: this is an opinion column after all, and as long as it doesn’t descend into personal abuse, it is always good to have one’s opinions challenged by those who hold a different view.

The striking thing about my piece about self-checkouts was that every single comment I saw agreed with me, something of a first it has to be said.  It seems I had struck a chord.

In that article I used as an example my local supermarket, which during the summer ripped out all but four of its staffed checkouts in order to install a phalanx of the automatic variety – which four months on remain largely unused, as customers prefer to queue to be served by a real live human being.

The weekend after my article appeared, several members of staff at said supermarket gingerly sidled up to me while I was doing my shopping to tell me how much they agreed with what I had written, and that in their opinion, the decision to move towards automated checkouts was the wrong one.

It is a shame, then, that the supermarket chain Booths doesn’t operate in this part of the world, because last week they announced that they are going to axe almost all of the self-service tills from their stores following a backlash from customers.

“We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores,” said Booths managing director Nigel Murray.

“Our customers have told us this over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores can be slow, they can be unreliable, they’re obviously impersonal.”

Well done to Booths, which is known as ‘the Waitrose of the north’, for listening to its customers and having the guts to admit that it got it wrong.

Meanwhile, at the Norwich branch of the ‘Waitrose of the south’ (i.e. Waitrose) last week, there were long queues

for the few remaining real tills, while many of the robotic ones stood unused.  Whatever is it going to be like at Christmas, when people fill their trolleys with far more things than can possibly be balanced in the self-service checkout ‘bagging area’ and will thus require an actual person to scan their shopping?

You may be wondering why people are prepared to queue for ages rather than get to grips with the technology and use the automated checkout. 

There are a number of answers to that. 

One is that they only really work when you are just buying a handful of items, and certainly not when you have a trolley-full. 

Another is that a large percentage of the time, you end up pressing the button to summon a member of staff anyway, either because you are buying something which requires your age to be verified, or because the machine has failed to recognise the bar-code, or just because those who haven’t grown up with technology find them difficult to use.

But the main reason why shoppers will choose to wait for ages at a real checkout is that most of us like the human interaction.  Given that, according to US surgeon general Dr Vivek Murphy, loneliness is as bad for your physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, choosing to shun technology and deal with actual people is the sensible option, even if it does mean endless queuing.

It is this backlash against anti-people business practices which has led to Booths’ decision to roll back the technology and re-introduce the human touch. 

It is the desire to be more sociable when we shop that led to a quarter of a million people signing a petition last year urging Tesco to ‘stop the replacement of people by machines’.

And it is by such customer power that we can fight this insidious techno-creep and encourage every supermarket to follow Booths’ lead and realise that the business which values people is the one which will prosper.