A Faster Shopping Experience

Peeve Week - Shopping Carts

One brisk morning I went to the local grocery store to go buy some donuts. It was fairly early in the morning, so there was hardly anybody in the store. I gathered a dozen or so donuts and made my way to the register. The only lane that was open was “self-checkout.”

“Oh brother.” I thought to myself. I bit my lip and looked at the box I was carrying the donuts in. I glanced around and saw a managerial looking guy at the customer service counter.

“Is there a cashier available?” I asked in almost a yell.

“There’s self-checkout.”

I again bit my lip. In my experience with self-checkout, it was always an option — almost a convenience. This store was trying to force this “convenience” upon me.

In protest I responded, “I want a real cashier.”

The manager sighed heavily and walked over to a lane. He proceeded to ring out my donuts with a rather peeved look upon his face.

I walked out of the store, satisfied that I had pissed off a store manager who wanted to make his customers do the grunt work.

My Problems With Self-Checkout

Self-checkout is one of those inventions that ideally is supposed to save a lot of time for a consumer. If all of the lanes in a grocery store are busy, the customer can take his or her groceries to the self-checkout and ring out the groceries. Without the intervention of a cashier, the customer should theoretically get out faster.

Instead of that ideal situation, self-checkout is essentially multiple lanes run by one cashier. The customers are the cashiers, baggers, and carry-out people. The cashier is the supervisor who makes all the calls.

It would be helpful if every single customer had prior cashier experience. Sadly, most don’t. The idea of ringing something up themselves is almost liberating. However, being a cashier once myself, I find ringing up my own groceries anything but liberating.

Self-checkout is just another way for grocery stores to capitalize on hiring less workers and putting customers to work. Self-checkout should be faster than a regular cashier, and sometimes it is. The other times, you are just stuck behind a person who is constantly asking the “cashier in charge” for help.

Is Self-Checkout Faster?

At the grocery store I go to, self-checkout is fast up to a certain item count. My experiences with self-checkout is that if you have less than ten items, there’s a good chance nothing will go wrong. If there is a large grocery load, however, something is bound to go wrong. The machine might start crying foul because the weight is off, or the wrong produce code was entered. You might have a price discrepancy or have to be carded for an alcohol or tobacco purchase. Things that usually can be handled immediately by a cashier are now put into a queue.

Is Self-Checkout Convenient?

I personally don’t think self-checkout is convenient. Sometimes the software is buggy. Sometimes the people in front of me are morons. Sometimes the cashier running the self-checkout is a moron.

During busy times, self-checkout seems to turn into the “express lane.” However, that doesn’t stop a family with two carts from taking up two of the self-checkout slots and paying for each one separately.

There are days where I’d rather just wait in line for a real cashier. I’d rather just stare idly at the gossip magazines, load my groceries onto the conveyor belt, give the cashier my frequent shopping card, pay my bill, and walk out with my bagged-up groceries. No thinking required. No having to wait two seconds between ringing up items. And no having to become a temporary grocery store employee working for free.


  1. I think stores tend to justify self-checkout through convenience and through cutting costs. I have a problem with the latter item. A store covers its costs through what it charges on various items. The cost of cashiers and baggers is included in what I buy. If I'm paying for cashiers and baggers, you'd better believe that I am going to use that service.


  2. I've never even been to a grocery store with a self-checkout lane. I guess, I'm a lucky Canadian 🙂

  3. i work the self check out lane at my local Kroger, and the policy is that if someone needs a regular register ie a large load the attendant is supossed to take them to a regular register while maintaing an eye our new wireless ateendant station. I have customers who are stupid enough that they don’t see the last cashier of the night is almost always open till midnight and they come through wi uscan with a large order its not always our fault. And i for one am no moron and run that piece of shit quite well

  4. I have managers that want me to run 6 u-scans and a register as soon as I come in, even when I’m not by myself and there many other cashiers available. Store policy typically has the manager out front, often times doing nothing while forcing the cashier to deal with all that nonsense.

    Sadly, many stores will treat their midnight closing cashiers like shit.

    Just my experience though.

    Oh and I can state through personal experience that enough theft occurs on those U-scans (sometimes unintentional theft, morons just forgetting to pay) to pay for enough cashiers. Not much of a profit is actually made on those due to the fact that they require a great deal of maintenance costs, and the fact that theft occurs regularly.

    Although unemployment is low in my town, the way stores these days treat their cashiers and force their cashiers to treat their customers is disgusting.

    If a cashier is not running both a register and a u-scan, they will actually threaten cashiers with their jobs if they do not grab customers from regular registers and try to get them to use the U-scans. And they’ll do it even if only one register in the U-scan is open and the rest are full. They even try to coerce me into grabbing large orders that are not supposed to be going through a U-scan. The store knows it takes customers with large orders longer to go through the U-Scan, but they coerce the cashier into pulling them anyways.

    For obvious reasons, I’m posting this anonymously.

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