Self scan machines in supermarkets

Supermarket queue

It is something that we are starting to see more often across the nation – self scan machines in supermarkets.

Shoppers are having to use these machines as shops have less assistants on the checkouts and supermarkets favour the use of self scan machines instead. I am not convinced that shoppers are happier about this scenario. There are queues for the self scan machines as well as the standard check out tills too, so it hasn’t visibly reduced the queueing for customers. The error messages mean increasing interaction that means that assistants need to come and help clear the error message or give approval for certain products. It isn’t entirely improving the process of purchasing goods from the store for the customer. Is it any wonder that customers look towards internet shopping as an alternative?

Shopping basket
Shopping basket

Talking back to the machines

Repeatedly you see many customers talking back to the bossy machines that tell you off for doing this, that or the other. Not placing your shopping bag correctly before starting, having to place your item swiftly after scanning, unexpected item in the bagging area, take your items from the bagging area, collect your change, etc…

Having been pushed towards using the self scan machines in the first place, we now have problems with using them, and more frustrated customers are talking back to them and their nagging comments and inability to process our shopping experience as we have come to expect from being served by a shop assistant.

Customer service

The element of service has diminished and is being scaled back from many of our supermarkets. At a branch of one major store local to me, there are often more staff stocking the shelves than serving customers. Where is the corporate care towards the customers? Where is the will to ensure that shoppers are happy and satisfied from their visit to the store? There seems to be very little of this going on a lot of the time. It does seem that there is a reliance on customers returning to the store regularly due to the location only and not due so much to other attraction such as price, service, or customer shopping experience.

Supermarket logos
Supermarket logos

Messages from the self serve machines

I’m not a fan of some of the pointless messages that are used by the self serve machines with regard to their loyalty points. At Tesco, they have messages such as ‘All your club card points add up’ and ‘Scan your club card to win club card points’.

I am glad that they tell us that all the points add up, I would hate to have some of them add up and some taken away. The message as it is stands sounds strange, and I am not sure I trust their adding up totally given that Tesco have had accounting scandal problems in the past –

The message saying that you should scan your loyalty card to ‘win’ points. All purchases earn points, so I am not sure where the element of winning is. There is no purchase that I am aware of that doesn’t get club card points – so is every purchase a ‘win’ or are they automatically given to club card holders when they make any purchase?

The wording voiced by these machines are not what I consider to be well worded. Though I guess when customer service is as it is, it isn’t surprising that it appears to be lower down the priority list for the supermarkets.

Self scan machine
Self scan machine


I like independent stores, they are generally light years ahead with regard to customer service and making the customer feel important and wanted.

Large supermarket chains appear to have scant regard for the customer in many ways, and the adoption of self scan machines are examples of the reduction of customer service and the move towards customer requirements not being thought of as a priority.

Machines will never replace human beings with regard to customer service. People like dealing with a person, and the social interaction that goes along with it. Automating processes is one thing, but it should not be at the expense of the user experience.

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