Self-Checkout: A Disgruntled Shopper Rant


I’ll admit, when the self-checkout registers first started appearing in grocery stores, I thought they were great. They were great as an option to standing in long-lines for only one or two items. They were great if I didn’t want to be judged for the enormous quantity of chips and Heluva Good Onion Dip I was buying. They were great when I wasn’t feeling like interacting with other humans that day. And then, they were not so great,. Now all I feel is loathing.


Shopping my local Kroger (and yes! I’m calling you out) has become such an exasperating, frustrating, soul-sucking experience that after my 19th nervous breakdown trying to explain to the *!&%^** machine that I DID put the *#&@^!* item in the bag, I typically leave the store full of rage and angry at everyone who crosses my path for the next hour or so.


Here’s the thing, I DON’T WORK AT KROGER, or Walmart, or any other of the big box stores that now want free labor so their shareholders can get their Lamborghinis with T-tops. I don’t want to scan items, enter the weight of my bananas after convincing the machine that they are indeed bananas, fight with a robot to accept my legitimate coupons or try to balance my paper towels on top of the bags that are already precariously stacked in the woefully small bagging area. I’m not lazy or feel it’s beneath me, it’s just that I already work 10 hours a day, and I don’t want to pull a shift at the Walmart.


When I walk past the graveyard of formerly human-manned checkout lanes to go stand in the line of 45 people for the “convenience” of checking out myself, it makes me sad. Is it cutting into profit margins that much to employ a dozen or so part-time high schoolers, retired persons, parents looking for flexible hours, workers who can’t afford a $150,000 education, or those just looking to make an honest living? I don’t even want to hear about this being a result of the mandatory minimum wage hikes. The minimum wage hasn't been increased since 2009! Paying workers a living wage of $12 or $13 an hour (seriously, could you live on that?) might be detrimental to a small business, but we are not talking about small business here. We are talking about multibillion-dollar conglomerates.


These self-checkouts are not handicap accessible either! I helped an older man the other day who was using a motorized cart because it was nearly impossible for him to pull the items from the front basket. Forget about the gyrations he was having to go through to get the items scanned and then into the bagging area, rolling the cart back and forth and back and forth 18 inches at a time. I didn’t mind helping at all, but what made my blood boil was the employee wandering around to “supervise” the self-checkout and not once offering to help. When I mentioned it to her on the way out, the response was, “I can’t help one customer; I have to be available to everyone.” I was tempted to explain the holes in this genius plan but realized the issue wasn’t the plan; it was the “I don’t care” attitude, and there was no fixing that in a five-minute lecture at the checkouts. That was the last straw. I decided never to shop at Kroger again.


Self-checkout as an option is terrific, but self-checkout because they won’t hire some workers and open at least one or two human-manned checkouts? The WORST. And I’m not alone in thinking so. I often see other shoppers leaving just as frustrated as I am. I see them step out of the long lines to try to find a manager and ask them to open a register, frustrated with the inefficient, slow, and often malfunctioning self-checkout machines — no such luck. Not only can a manager not be found, but there often isn’t a single employee in sight other than the one “I can’t help you” gal. Not one single register with a human being open. No one at the ironically named Customer Service Desk. I’d be willing to bet that if I decided to skip the line and exit without paying, a security guard and or a manager would suddenly appear.


But there is hope for humanity and my sanity. My savior is called Publix.


I’m in love with Publix (a Southeast grocery chain) for many reasons, but most of all, because they have zero self-checkouts. At least the four stores in my town don’t. They have employees at the register, and human baggers, and delightful butchers, and helpful deli counter workers. Publix makes me feel like spending my hard-earned money should ... like the retailer is grateful I’m their customer and appreciates my business.


I was surprised to find out that Publix is one of the ten largest-volume supermarket chains in the country with retail sales over $39 billion. The surprising part is that they achieved that without cutting their workforce, expecting customers to DIY the checkout, or skimping on customer service, and they start their employees at $10 an hour, not the federally mandated $7.25. Publix is also employee-owned, an arrangement where the employees own shares of the company’s stock. If the business prospers, so do the employees. No wonder their employees are always so pleasant and willing to help! Keeping customers happy benefits them as well. It’s a win-win. Publix is a bit more expensive than Kroger and definitely more than Walmart, but I, for one, am willing to pay the price to make my end of the day shopping a lot less stressful.


Publix values customer service over all else, and it shows, and they gained a loyal customer in me. Thank you for making my trips to the grocery store pleasant again.


This post is not sponsored, endorsed, or paid for by Publix. This is a personal opinion only.

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