Are Tesco going toward 100% self-service tills?
Across the country, Tesco have been trialling new, slimmer self-service tills. Not because they look nicer, but rather, they can get more bodies in who will serve themselves and bundle them out the door again. In one Manchester store, there is no traditional till served by a member of staff. One London Tesco branch is also entirely self-serving too.
Instead, the staff are now hanging around the self service tills as floating assistants, too flustered to converse with customers, and effectively retraining everyone who walks through the door to be an unpaid worker.
Tesco won't mind though because they think that they can pass off self-service tills as something that will reduce queuing time for consumers.
However, there's a number of problems with self-service tills - by getting the customer to do some of the work, that means they don't need to pay as many members of staff, but are Tesco passing on the money they're saving to customers? Not a chance.
Another problem is that research has shown that the queues have been replaced by a lengthier waiting time while customers have technical problems with the self-service tills, argue with the staff about not wanting to use the machines and the whole 'bagging area' irritation. A survey by the Telegraph showed that the shops offering a choice between staffed and automated tills, it is usually quicker to choose the traditional method. In addition, if a store has one remaining manned cash register, then the queues get increasingly large there, as customers avoid the automated ones.
Anecdotally, one city-centre store BW has seen has gone from a friendly (no, honestly, pleasantly friendly), bustling supermarket to half-dead overnight. That's not because the 100% self-service checkouts have streamlined service, but rather, the nearby shops that offer both self-service and trad. arr. staffed tills are now much busier than before because customers have the choice of talking to, or ignoring other humans.
Of course, self-service tills offer a humiliating prospect for older customers, who aren't all tech-savvy and, pat on the back for this one supermarkets, by removing a chatty member of staff from their lives, may have lost an old dear the only person they got to talk to in a day. Naturally, there's a whole host of tech-knowledgeable pensioners out there, but even they must miss a brief 'hello' when shopping, rather than moving through a shop silently.
In some Tesco stores, you could feasibly spend £200 on your shopping without actually speaking to another human or receiving any acknowledgement or gratitude from the company's proprietors or management. Empty as a 'thank you' can be, it is still nice to get one if you're handing over your money to a company.
In self-service heavy outlets, you walk in, shop, put your own stuff into the system without the savings being passed on, walk out and the only thanks you get is a sign, swaying in the rafters that says "Thanks For Shopping At Tesco". It should go without saying that there's some people who actively prefer self-service tills, but it is lousy to see supermarkets edging toward a lack of choice for the customer.
Obviously, self-service isn't always bad - when was the last time someone served your petrol, or the last time someone eschewed a cash machine because they wanted to get their money from a bank clerk? There's a good number of people who have enjoyed the five-fingered discount that self-service allows too.
There's just something bleak about Tesco, a company that has lost huge sums of money and losing ground to Aldi and Lidl, choosing to squeeze pennies out of customers so flagrantly. With customers seemingly voting with their feet and shopping elsewhere, it is a problem that Tesco need to look at.