Self-service checkout sucks.

Meet the current bane of my existence.

Canadian Tire has had these self-service checkout stations for a while now, but I was somewhat taken aback last week to find that my local supermarket had decided to replace half of the staffed checkout counters with these DIY disasters.

Scanning the bar codes of a few hardware items is one thing, but when it comes to a week’s worth of groceries I have never managed to get through a session with one of these stations without having to call over an attendant to fix some stupid error — which kind of makes the “self-service” part of their moniker a lie.

As a customer there is absolutely no advantage to using these things. Banks have managed send the majority of their customers to the curb with Automated Teller Machines but there is at least added value there — ATMs are accessible when the rest of the bank is not. These self-service kiosks provide zero benefit, save for the constant nagging reminder that you are not an experienced checkout clerk. And for the retailer they actually have an adverse effect — in the case of Canadian Tire some customers are apparently so frustrated with the stations that they end up bypassing the self-service checkout altogether, choosing to shoplift instead.

I suppose that the idea of automating supermarket checkouts is inevitable if not actually, you know, good. But these stations are in my mind a shining example of half-assed execution. Think of how much better an experience grocery shopping would be were your wheeled cart itself weight-sensitive and equipped with a bar code scanner, so that by the time you were finished all that would be required would be some plastic to pay for your purchase.

Fortunately, this story has a (potentially) happy ending. To make good on my very vocal promise of never returning to this particular supermarket again, I’m finally placing my first order with more than a decade after signing up for an account there.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

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