Thursday, June 12, 2008

The grocery store technology

Grocery store technology...let's face it. The grocery store is the one place that technology doesn't really seem to be keeping up with therest of the world. However, over the last few years, one bit of technology has entered the world of grocery that, honestly, I don't think the world really was ready for: Self Check Out. How great an teeny bopper or underemployed person needed for you to scan and pay for your purchases. At least, that's the theory. I have yet to go to a store with self check out and not see a customer who was "beaten by the machine." Monday night, for instance, I was in one of the local locations of "the greedy corporate giant big box store", you know the one that rhymes with "Ball Cart", and there were three out of four self checkouts open (I assume that some customer must have gotten frustrated and beaten up the one now closed). Of the three open registers, 3 were in use...and in use still, and in use even still for at least 10 minutes (keep in mind there is a 20 item limit on these lanes). Each person had to, no less than three times during the running of their checkout, ask the underpaid, underappreciated, and undertrained employee for assistance. Meanwhile, I stood there with my 5 items, waiting for some grace of god that would help these customers figure out the complexities of the machine and actually finish their transaction. Let's be honest's not all that complex. Pick up item, run the bar code over the scanner, put in the bag, select form of payment, pay, grab reciept, leave. Simple. I suppose, once again...that's the theory. This assumes that the customer knows what a "bar code" is, and is able to push the correct 'on screen' button to move from scanning to paying (not that it doesn't say something like "finish and pay"). Finally, one of the three customers finally figured out the system and completed their payment, and I moved into position to checkout. The pressure was on. Scan the items. That took me 15 seconds. Push the payment button, scan my debit card, put my pin in, grab my reciept, grab my items, in my car before the other two customers even finished scanning. I love self checkout and my debit card...I wouldn't go shopping without either one.

Words of advice for first time "self checkout users."

+If you don't know what a bar code is, skip the self check out. Or, perhaps pay someone to do your shopping for you.
+If you have produce purchased by weight, go to the standard lanes. Produce by weight is for experienced self checkers.
+If you have to skip the selfers and go to the manned checkouts. Coupons are trouble even for trained employees.
+Use self checkout for less than 20 items, even if not marked as such. There really is no space for running a full cart of goodies. Also, the more items you have, the more chance for system errors.
+Use a debit or credit card. Yes there options for cash and check, but those options are for show. Plastic is the only acceptable form of payment. (In fact, plastic is the only way to go in standard checkout lanes too...Check writing went out in the 80's. Throw the checks away and go electric.)

With experience, you can turn a checkout on a self lane into a time saving measure- scanning and paying in less than a minute. You can't even get that from a standard checkout employee. However, the first few times will take a few minutes to figure the system and the scanning technology. Don't be tempted by an empty line if you are a first timer and in a hurry. Learn it at your leisure. Someday, grocery stores will be entirely do it yourself...Probably in about 80 years, at the rate people are catching on to their use. I went by the store yesterday, and one of those two customers was still there trying to scan her bananas....that darn produce.


Lavender Lemonade said...

Steller Blogging, honey bun.

Quigs78 said...

Amen to that, brother! It makes me wonder if those poor people that can't self-check will make their way home afterwards - or if I'll see them wandering on the side of the road, with a lost look on their faces, clutching their bananas.