Some major grocery chains are considering doing something stupid: Eliminating self-checkout lanes.
Albertsons LLC, which operates 217 stores in seven Western and Southern states, will eliminate all self-checkout lanes in the 100 stores that have them and will replace them with standard or express lanes, a spokeswoman said.
"We just want the opportunity to talk to customers more," Albertsons spokeswoman Christine Wilcox said. "That's the driving motivation."
The move marks a surprising step back from a trend that began about a decade ago, when supermarkets began installing self-checkout lanes, touting them as a solution to long lines. Now some grocery chains are questioning whether they are really good for business.
Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the U.S. (with some 2,500 outlets), is experimenting with removing all self-checkouts in at least one Texas store, reports StorefrontBacktalk, an industry publication. Publix, another major chain, is "on the fence" about self-checkout, according to a report quoted in the story.
When I go shopping, it’s usually to pick a few things up for Marathon Girl on my way home from work. There are two stores near our home that I can pick things up at. The first has no self-checkout lanes. The second has 10 self-checkout lanes. Unless she needs something specific at the first store I always choose the second because self-checkout lets me get in and out of the store quickly. At the store with no self-checkout lanes there’s always a line at every checkout lane. Going there adds at least five minutes to any shopping trip.
Self checkout lanes are perfect for shoppers who don’t have many items and need to get in and out of the store quickly. The human touch is great when you have a cart load of groceries but when I go, I don’t care if I talk to someone. I want to buy what I need and get on with my life.
What I don’t understand why some stores don’t want to give shoppers a choice of how to buy their groceries. Just because there’s a self-checkout lane doesn’t mean someone has to use it. If people want the human touch, that’s great—let them wander over to a lane with a person. But please don’t force to stand in line when all I need to buy is a gallon of milk or a bag of apples. I’m fully capable of checking out those items by myself.