"Why I hate using the supermarket self checkout"

"It's not until the machine tells me of an 'unexpected item in the bagging area' that I truly die inside"

@airedale makes the case against the supermarket self checkout:


I love self service checkouts and I only use them where available.

Our local Coles rarely has much of a queue and I prefer the card only terminals.

I reckon I can scan items just as fast as an operator and I pack my bags exactly how I like them. No tins or bottles on top of the stone fruit, eggs, bread etc.

If I am buying multiples of an item, I call the attendent to put them through.

My only peeve is that Coles has an idiotic setting which freezes the terminal and displays a message that “You have 4 own bags”. What are they thinking? That someone is stealing new reusable bags?

An added bonus of using self service terminals is the occassional freebie due to scanning errors.

Once I have paid, I scan the receipt thoroughly for any pricing errors. If I am unsure of a price, I will go back into the store to check. Once I am certain, I proceed to the service counter for my refund.

Unfortunately our local Supa IGA does not have self service terminals.



Unfortunately one is sometimes unable to use a manned checkout as only self serve checkouts are available. Kmart and ocassiinally Bunnings are our local examples where during quiet periods, the manned checkout is closed and only the self serve ones are available.

We do use them voluntarily from time to time when the queues at the self serve are less than the manned ones…and we have a few items. Fortunately in our area, they have generally disabled (local Woollies) the weighing bagging area so there are less hick ups with the scales triggering a false positive.

The technology behind the self serve (esp. Woollies) has improved since the first generation of registers…making it quicker and less touch screen orientated…namely one can scan to start a shop and add coins/notes to finish without touching the screen.


I avoid them as far as possible.

Firstly it takes me two to three times longer. It is also difficult with a full trolley unless you take two in and hog the space. Just not done! And It is all too low with lots of bending. Look to the heights and space and conveyor at a regular check out.

Fix all of that and I really don’t need to waste my time pretending to be a check out expert.

Of course the store could pay me for my time replacing their staff! Take it off the bill at $22 per hour plus allowances etc? I am slow to be sure!

For the times I have gone self checkout my record was three problems and waits for the supervisor to fix the process. I’ve never got to four. The staff have usually finished the job for me.

Do self checkouts ever work for me? Yes, when it is one or two items, there is no que and no free operator checkout. I’m up to 75% success, if I remember there is some weighing magic on either side of the scanner, and to move items fluidly and with precision. Hesitation is to fail!


Self service - at our independent supermarket is only available for 12 items or less with no weighing. So bar codes only. It is between the Express checkout and the Tobacco / customer service counter. I have not used it as my fortnightly shop is way above 12 items and there is little to no waiting at the manned check-outs.


Personally I refuse to use self service checkouts. I think they’re having a detrimental affect to the health of vulnerable people.

I say this because I worked retail for years. A lot of older people or people with disabilities struggle with things like identifying options on the pin pad, packing items, navigating electronic menus etc. Those people are forced to now wait in long queues as shops hope they can force them to use self serve. The other thing I saw a lot was people who get little social interaction. For some that short conversation with a cashier is one of the few times a week they get to talk with another person. And I think it’s bad for mental health to take that away.


It’s not uncommon to have no manned checkouts available where I shop, mostly during quiet periods, but on approaching the service desk a couple of times they seem willing to open a checkout in preference to re-stacking the shelves with a trolley-load … seriously, the self service checkouts are fine for a few items, but in addition to trying to force people to use them, they compress the space available so everyone is on top of each other - so many unsolved crimes, and all these geniuses wasting away in the self service checkout design departments of supermarket head offices …

In my town I use Woolies the vast majority of the time - they don’t have the weight feature turned on, where Coles do. It wouldn’t be so bad if the system actually knew the weight of items, but I’ve not had a single visit to Coles in the last couple of years where I got through the checkout without a false weight reading - in probably two dozen visits … KMart is better, but not great. It’s interesting that this seems to vary so much from place to place …

The other annoyance is the process change when special offers are presented - I’m simply not interested in the latest tiles, stickers or school stuff - I want my groceries, to pay, and to get out as soon as possible - random extra buttons asking me stuff only serves to increase the test of patience … :wink:


I agree! Never had a scanning error as I don’t buy enough at Coles. Just few things. Otherwise it’s

Farmers Markets
Bulk Buy Stores

I very rarely have any problems with weight issues at the Coles self service terminals but I do know of another annoying thing with the scales.

When buying Kleenex 32 packs of toilet paper, (only when on special of course), they are not included under the “Heavy Items” on the menu so the barcode has to be scanned, but once placed on the bagging area, a “Remove the last item” message is displayed.


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I thought I must have missed something the first time I went through with a full trolley but it looks like like the go is just scan some stuff and put it back in the trolley with the unscanned stuff.


Bringing your own bags has added a degree of complexity to the weight measurment used to check what you put in your bag. With some of the bags we use, in places like KMart the checkout regularly has kanipshins and the self service checkout checker has to come over and undertake a complex set of arm waving and screen poking to tell the thing to ignore that item because we have used our own bag. Then the next item, or the one after that, we require the assistance of the checkout checker again.

Why doesn’ the system weigh just the bag when it’s put on and take that into account instead of using the weight of the ‘pay for’ plastic bags that they use.


One of the reasons why I don’t use self checkout other than perhaps twice in the last 4 years. It takes away jobs, it is at times very tedious eg your bag issues, often requires staff assistance so if multiple machines playing up at once a test of patience in waiting, machine breakdowns eg failure to dispense change or accept cash payments and for my own experience buttons/icons touched/pressed that do not respond to my input. These are mostly observed issues rather than suffered as I explained above re my usage.


I dislike the self service as I do believe it takes away jobs and encourages theft.

A while back at my local woolies late one night, a number of staff were working around the service area and not in the checkouts. I had a full trolley and was told the manual aisles were closed and I had to use the self service. After a fruitless exchange of requesting a cashier I gave them an ultimatum - spend time serving customers or spend time placing a trolley full of groceries back on the shelves.

I would also like to add that our local Bunnings have all but stopped the self service as hardly anybody used them. Most of the time these areas are now trolley storage.


I always use self service tills, either as a way of getting rid of heaps of coins I’ve somehow accumulated, or for breaking $50 notes out of the ATM.


I cannot tolerate self serve checkouts.
It is bad enough that we trundle around the aisles looking for what we want, and hopefully finding said item. Forget about getting any help - where have all the staff gone.
Then the supermarket wants me to unload my own trolley, scan the items bag and refill the trolley. The unload into the car, carry to kitchen and pack away.
Phew, I am exhausted.

No. I would rather wait in a queue and get someone else to scan my items and pack MY bags.

I will never use self serve checkouts for those self serving supermarkets.


The damn things scare me.


Yes, when there is an overwhelming feeling of being outwitted by a machine that you can neither turn off nor throw out the window at will!

Some of us cope better than others.
I found the reset button on the computer used to help. You had enough time to slip away and make a cuppa and calm down while it did it’s penance.

These days that luxury is less common.

The self serve support staff are likely at the receiving end of my angst when the self checkout has gone wrong. They don’t deserve anything other than politeness and smiles for helping. Another reason why I in particular should avoid the machines until they change to my way of doing the shopping?

They have been designed to suit the needs of the store before the customer. How silly we must appear?


Interesting comments. In their support I must say I use them extensively. The main reason is because the operator assist checkout lines are long and I can get through the self serve checkouts much quicker. If I have a large trolley it is more convenient to use the operator assist checkout line because the self serve has limited space and the scale has a small surface area. I find Coles, Woolies, BigW and Bunnings to be quick and have not experienced the dramas that others have mentioned. Maybe it is a town-thing?


I agree, @MalR, I find it 100 times faster than the operator assisted one, and I’m sure people have been employed elsewhere in the store, there seems to be more assistants putting items on the shelves, and around the service counter and the self-service area.

I remember the long queues while a ‘Price Check’ was going on;
or when the customer before me was doing their personal banking while paying for the large pile of groceries.
Or when a counter was ‘Closing’ up just as you approached it.
And when the ‘Express’ counter with 12 items or less sign was being used by someone with dozens of items.

Even with ‘chatty’ machines reminding us what to do ( I found that the ‘Unexpected Item’ was due to my shifting an item around after placing it in the bagging area) there are still advantages:
I can unload all my small change without holding up the queue while the change is being counted.
Can use my bank card and get cash out at a very fast speed.
Can arrange soft items on top of heavy ones, and not take home buiscuit crumbs, or squashed bread.
If not sure of anything, an assistant is always available near by.

A mere scanning machine should not be daunting at all!:wink:


I can remember when there were two people on every checkout.
The ‘checkout chick’ (always a young female), would key in the price and seemingly hurl the groceries back at alarming rate to the assistant (always a young male) packing the paper grocery bags. After the bill had been paid(cash), and the next customer’s groceries were on the way, the packer would invariably be trying to catch up under the watchful glare, and often hostile scrutiny of the first customer. If there was no second customer, the first would be assisted from the register with an even more hostile glare.
How I dreamt of being sent out to push trolleys.