In theory, self service tills at shops should have benefited everyone.

  • Faster throughput of customers
  • Happier customers as they are queing less

In practice, this simply isn’t the case as complicated interfaces and temperamental scales make users wary of them, especially the dreaded  ”unintended item in the packing area” message

My local Marks and Spencers in Swansea often has a queue of pensioners for the standard checkout while the self service till remain empty.

As with any new technology, people often find a way around the issue.

One of the biggest problems is that the machines don’t seem to be able to cope with the huge variety of shopping bags that people carry around and will frequently throw up error messages which then require a staff member to deal with.

Most machines will ask you to place your bags on the machine at the beginning of the process.

What I’ve observed people doing is to put their bags down to the side of the machine and tell the machine they haven’t brought any.

They then proceed to

  1. Scan each item
  2. Place in the bagging area
  3. Pay
  4. Then add the items to their bag

The 4th step can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the shop.

All the while you’ve got a queue of people who are getting increasingly irritated

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