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My local Walmart has just installed about 10 self-checkout registers. Now I live in the Florida county that has the second oldest population of any county in America. Further, this Walmart is located among a half dozen retirement communities, which after citrus farming is the number two industry in the area. There is also a large Spanish speaking population in the area, many of whom need special help to shop.

This noon I avoided the self-checkout and used the "20 items or less" line as I needed a few replacement staples for my fridge.  I stopped by on my way home from the golf driving range where I normally put in a hour of practice early Sunday afternoons. I have golf rounds scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of this week. In front of me was an elderly lady (easy for me to say as many consider me an elderly man) who was having a rough time with her purse, credit card and the ID machine to process her payment. Luckily, there was helpful cashier who had to make four separate trips around the couter to help in the process.

I was patient and commented, “I can imagine what would happen to that lady if she tried the automated register check-out system.”

The cashier replied with a negative shake of her head, “I was on the help desk at the automated registers last night and it was a disaster. We had tie-ups on all stations, as people couldn't get them to work. It took about 3 times longer to check them out than normally. Nobody from corporate asked us about the problems that might crop up with these things."

I know that the self-check out technology saves money and is generally accepted by the public. But although I consider myself fairly computer literate, I shudder at the thought of being debased by a machine as it dehumanizes me into a servant that will follow orders or suffer the embarrass of having to ask for help. I give my dog more consideration than that.  Maybe the design folks at Walmart should realize that half of the fun of shopping there is talking to the cashiers.  Old people aren't all that concerned with the speed of the check-out process. 

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Comment by MGDJ on January 27, 2013 at 7:58pm

Even if we can replace most major purchasing decisions through the internet, there is still some value in going to the grocery store.  Kroger and Meijer in my section of the country have adopted targeted couponing.  They actually record your purchases with customer loyalty cards and send you coupons on those items which you purchase most.  Supermarkets need loyalty with the competition being felt from wholesalers and closeout stores like Big Lots.  More customer service is what keeps customers loyal. 

Comment by Mandy Muffin on January 27, 2013 at 6:29pm

It seems the trend is to go back to people waiting on people:  http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/supermarket-self-checkouts-being-r... Another article states that major grocer, Albertson, has replaced them also.  Albertson pulled out of Florida.

I live in a small city in Florida and the store choices are Walmart and Publix. Both are just on the corner of my retirement complex.   Purchasing name brand products in Walmart is not purchasing lower quality.  It is simply saving money. I can assure you the golf balls I purchase there go every bit as far as those I purchase at the golf shop at twice the price.  It seems the preponderance of people in America feel the same with the tremendous growth of Walmart over the past several decades.  I grocery shop in both stores (Publix and Walmart) and buy the best from each so I can stretch my retirement dollars.   

Comment by exedir on January 27, 2013 at 5:53pm

A number of these self-check areas have been in stores around here for some time.  And yes, the area is similar to Florida as to demographics.  

What has happened, in some stores, they have magically disappeared.  And the why is clear, they are not efficient and effective in use as obviously those that thought it all was a good idea had conceived of it being.  

If there is anything wrong with it is design.  There are places and instances where the idea will work nicely, but not as many as the current design allows.  I encounter them mostly in home supply stores and with the right products it is a better solution than using the manned checkout line.  In the grocery stores that I have used them in, much more limited.  And the limit is based on customer and customer recognition of what they can do as long as they recognize the limits of technology as to what it can process and how it operates and interacts with them.  

This is not the great leap forward as was UPC codes and scanning were to check out, it is at best throwing technology at customers with regard as to how to use the devices properly or at all.

Soon we will have further technology based on smart phones that will further confuse or expedite getting out of a store, stay tune, the robots will still probably win. 

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