Monday Morning – Get in Line
Ahh, there's good news from the grocery front this week. It looks like some of the major grocery chains are starting to cave on the "self-checkout" scheme. It was almost exactly four years ago – July 2, 2007, to be exact – that I ranted on the Morning Lineup (HERE):
A rather vile practice has swept through the grocery-store industry in my part of the country. Most of the supermarkets have installed "Self-Checkout" lines where the customer takes his groceries and does all the clerk’s work, i.e.: scanning the prices, weighing the produce, making change and bagging. In other words, the customer has become the store clerk without getting the benefits of wages.Now if the store offered a discount, say 5% or 10%, for doing their work for them, I could see – just maybe – going through all that ordeal. But they don’t. The store relies on you wanting to play with the scanner, like a new toy, and making you think that you are saving some precious time by struggling with the machines yourself.
What it really is, is a gimmick to save on labor costs by getting you to work for nothing so that the store can lay off some employees. I have estimated that for each 60 – 80 customers that go through the "free labor" lines, the store can lay off one clerk. A clerk at one of the stores I patronize told me that on the very day her store opened the free-labor lines, her store laid off 8 clerks.
Personally, I never use the self-checkout lines, primarily because of my aversion to doing somebody else's work without getting paid for it. And I noticed that I am not alone with that principle. I always see that I am not the only shopper waiting in the live-checker line even though we only have a few items to purchase. As the lines build, the floor manager has to hustle another checker or two into the bank of registers to get the lines worked down.
But the concept has started to wither. Last week Albertson's, one of the nation's largest grocery chains (primarily in Western states), announced that they will eliminate all self-checkout lanes in their stores that have them.
"We just want the opportunity to talk to customers more," Albertsons spokeswoman Christine Wilcox said. "That's the driving motivation."
Wilcox said the replacement of automated checkout lanes with human-operated lanes likely would mean more hours available for employees to work.
Wanting to talk to the customers more is just face-saving blather. What they really want to do is eliminate those very expensive checkout machines that they have to maintain for just a relatively few customers to "play checker" with.
And Alberson's isn't the only one to fold. Kroger, the nation's largest chain is experimenting in Texas with eliminating the space-taking monsters that keep telling people to "put your selection in a bag." It won't be long before they all go and I won't miss a one.
Now let's make sure we don't miss any problems with our equipment and get it checked out. This is Monday, so we use the long checklist today. I'll make sure there's plenty of coffee ready. See you back in the day room later.
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