So, I’m starting to feel kind of old, guys. There’s a new technology that I absolutely hate, but all the young people love it.
I’m talking about self-checkouts. They’re awful at dealing with any produce, they constantly get confused about whether you’ve placed something in the bagging area, and 100 percent of the time the machine asks me to track down a store employee to complete my transaction.
Not to mention the fact they are putting good people out of work.
But apparently I’m in the minority on this — at least according to new research from Zebra Technologies Corporation, which recently released the results of its 12th annual Global Shopper Study.
“Self-checkout technologies are...gaining traction in retail stores as 40 percent of shoppers reported using these solutions within the last six months and 86 percent stated comfort with the technology,” the report says. “Furthermore, most shoppers (58 percent) — especially millennials (70 percent) — agree that self-checkout provides an improved customer experience.”
So 70 percent of Millennials like it BETTER? What is happening? Is this what it felt like for Boomers when they all resisted computers and cell phones? Am I part Boomer now? Is that what’s happening?
I’m sure 10 years from now, I’ll look back on this column and wonder how I ever resisted this incredible technological advancement — but right now, I’m annoyed.
And yes, I know that self-checkouts aren’t exactly a “new” technology, per se. Indeed, they have been in stores for at least a couple decades. But they are finally starting to gain traction to the point that I can foresee a future where we no longer even have the option to go to a human being to ring up our carts full of Lean Cuisines, Greek yogurt and Snickers Fun Size bars.
In fact, where I live, in Rockford, Illinois, they recently opened a new Three Square Self Pay Market at the local mall. The entirely self-serve convenience store offers various food and drink items including grab-and-go salads, sandwiches, pastries and drinks, according to the Rockford Register Star.
Meanwhile, the entire food court at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. is done via automated checkout.
I’ll be honest, the last time I was there I almost assaulted an iPad register because the entire system was so frustrating to navigate. It’s set up so that whether you’re buying a fresh slice of pizza or a candy bar, you have to take every item to an automated register at the end of a long hallway.
Things got off to a rocky start when the guy at the pizza place literally yelled at me for not understanding how things worked — although I’m guessing he spends his entire day trying to explain the stupid system to every single tired traveler who walks through there, so I get it.
Then the pay station I waited in line for didn’t accept cash, which I had planned to use, so I had to go wait in line at the other one. And I couldn’t pick up my food order until I had gotten the receipt from the check out like a block away, which was super stressful to navigate as I ran back and forth down the corridor.
It was just one frustration after another, so of course after I sat down at my gate my entire bottle of Coke exploded all over my clothes. Was that technically the fault of the self checkout? No. Did I blame the self checkout for the exploding Coke though? Absolutely.
And self checkouts have long created headaches for the candy industry, as they initially had the tendency to reduce last-minute confectionery purchases. Most of them have since been redesigned to include shelves stocked with candy and snacks.
And there’s an argument to be made that the completely automated convenience stores will help drive more candy sales — but at what cost? Doesn’t peace and tranquility have value? Are customers really happier after a shopping trip if they had to accost an annoying computer to get their candy bar?
Maybe human beings ringing people up will eventually go the way of independent bookstores, video rental stores and vinyl record shops. But if that’s the case, then I’ll be the curmudgeonly old woman insisting on only going to stores that offer human cashiers.