At the local Safeway, the renovation (and eventual transition to “Woolworths”) is underway, and the self-service checkouts are now operating.
There’s five of them, compared to three express checkouts, and eight “normal” checkouts. From memory there used to be more normal checkouts, though as at most supermarkets, I don’t ever recall all of them being in use at once.
I suppose there’s something of a moral quandary about whether self-serve checkouts will cut the number of staff the supermarkets have to employ. I’m afraid my general philosophy is that if there are long queues, I’ll use whichever option is likely to get me out of there the quickest.
If there are no queues, the staffed checkout is likely to be quicker, as Safeway’s dedicated and tireless personnel are much more likely to know where all the barcodes are, and precisely which buttons to press to choose the butternut pumpkin (or whatever) off the fruit+veg menu.
But if the queues for staff are long, and particularly if I don’t have many items to buy, I reckon the self-serve is likely to be quicker. This goes doubly at places like Big W, because I’m usually not buying lots and lots of small items, and of course there is no fruit+veg — everything’s got a barcode.
So yesterday at Safeway I found myself with a basket full of about fifteen items (eg too many for the express lanes), two normal lanes open, both with 2-3 people queuing with very full trolleys. And no queue at the self-service checkouts (though one of them was out of order).
I chose the self-service, which no doubt was what Woolworths Corp had in mind all along.
Any guilt about putting Rowena (family friend who I occasionally encounter on the checkouts) or her cohorts out of a job was extinguished, this time, by the sheer amount of intervention required from the staff member on duty as I scanned my items.
Putting my green bag into the bagging area, and patting the bottom of it down with my hand to smooth it out set off the Incorrect Weight error, requiring assistance.
Trying to fiddle around to pack items neatly into the green bag also set off the error.
Accidentally double-clicking the Fruit+Veg button got the register to incorrectly charge my butternut pumpkin as mandarins, and reversing it required the staff member yet again.
All in all it probably took twice as long as a transaction handled fully by a human staff member, and certainly required a lot of intervention. I’m not sure if it got me out of the store more quickly than it would have if I’d queued, but I don’t think there was a lot in it.
I think in future unless (a) there’s a long queue for the human operators, (b) I’m buying only a handful of items, and (c) that includes nothing that has no barcode, I’ll avoid the self-service checkouts.