Supermarkets' self-service option leading to longer queues for 'human' checkouts


We all love self-service checkouts in supermarkets don’t we? Smooth, effortless transactions that are only interrupted if we’re trying to buy booze or something where the bar code doesn’t work properly. Even then, the delay is only somewhere between fairly and very irritating. Great stuff.

But it seems that rather than shorten the queues at the human-manned checkouts, they introduction of the self-service has actually made them longer. According to the Telegraph, the average wait for a staffed till has gone from 5min 15sec in 2008 to 5min 42sec this year. At Sainsbury’s there has also been a rise in average queuing times, from 5min 30sec to 5min 35sec.

Research has shown that one in six of us who use self-service tills find ourselves putting our hands up like a frightened schoolchild who needs to go to the toilet as the whole thing goes calamitously wrong.

Yet still the supermarkets insist on rolling out more of the things – Waitrose are the latest chain to trial them, and there’ll be 15,000 self-service checkouts in the UK by next year.

Worse still, shop workers’ union Usdaw reckon that the robot checkouts are the cause of ‘shop rage’. Their general secretary John Hannett said: “Frustrated shoppers experiencing problems using self-service checkouts can often take out their anger and frustration on the nearest shop worker, and this is both unfair and unacceptable.

“In our latest survey, self-service checkouts were cited for the first time as a cause of abuse – only in three per cent of incidents, but we will be very concerned if the situation worsens as the use of self-service checkouts becomes more widespread.”

Have you ever punched a self-service checkout in the balls are do you know how to work one without having to resort to crying like a tit? Maybe you avoid them altogether and select your checkout according to how much you fancy the person sitting behind it. Tell us your stories. We REALLY care.


  • Jamie
    Unexpected item in the baggage area. Enough said.
  • Faceman
    Great idea, but clearly designed with no thought for the user experience.
  • ryan
    it pisses me off when you get some idiot who has no idea how to use the self checkout spending 20 minutes making the same mistake again and again calling over the shop assistant. if you dont know how to use it dont fucking use it you idiots
  • Paul
    When I choose a checkout, I find someone who looks like they could do with a friendly chat and could do with beaing treated like a human being. Makes the world a brighter place. Bonus points if they have a luscious pair.
  • Whisky
    Having shamefully worked for Tesco during my university days I can say that I know what the problem is. They do not work on the same software as the normal tills. If they did any idiot could use it (lets face it the retard sat on the checkout seems to manage it)
  • Whisky
    @Paul, no doubt you are one of the ones who also pay in coppers for £80 worth of shopping but whip the credit card out for a newspaper. Just ram the stuff through the checkout, pay in the most time effiecent way possible and fuck off so the next person in the queue can get through.
  • Mr M.
    I like the self checkouts though they could definately do with a software revision. They also make it quite easy to get expensive veg v cheap when you put it through as potatoes.
  • Noodles
    @ are a douchebag..these self service checkouts are a waste of crawl back to your hole!
  • PokeHerPete
    I tell you what I hate, when you get some fucker messing around in their purse/wallet for 10 minutes after being served expecting you to wait. You know what else is annoying, the tossers who leave their trolley in the middle of the aisle while they go get something. I hope to god that they don't drive. Oh and one final thing, the reductions scavengers. Constantly asking you when something is going to be reduced to 10 pence, and then try and con you by passing you stuff that is well in date. As you probably had guessed, I too have shamefully worked at Tesco during my University days. I fucking hate customers.
  • Whisky
    Noodles, no e in proper whisky. Crawl back to your pot.
  • Paul
    @Whisky No. I try and shop as quickly as possible so that I don't bump into people like you.
  • Jerec
    I just pick the area with the shorter queues, whether it be Human or Self Service. Don't care what it is, just get more of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Mark
    What pisses me off is that they're constantly on at you to use their bag for life things, and then on the rare occasion I do actually remember to take one, the bastard machine won't recognise anything I put in it (even after I've hit 'I'm using my own bags'). Not to mention you're screwed if you want to buy booze or get cashback.
  • Alex
    Self service are great for people with above average intelligence who are just buying their lunch during their break (how hard is it ffs? scan bag, scan bag). If you are a knuckle dragging moron your best bet is to let the underpaid shopkeep do it for you so the rest of us can get on with our day
  • Craig
    The worst part is watching OAPs trying to use these things. It's not like they've got time on their side, by the time they've scanned their 10 items, packed and paid by card, they've got 1 foot in the crematorium. Pensioners should be banned from using them, able bodied and minded people are slow enough without having to wait til closing time before a wrinkly has finished scanning their cat food and corned beef.
  • Whisky
    @PokeHerPete Don't forget christmas, I fucking hate christmas. Just think the stock rooms will already be full of Mr Kipling mince pies and shit christmas related crap.
  • PokeHerPete
    @Whisky Ha ha yeah, then there will be the odd shelf with Christmas stock on. Then every other customer will make a comment on how asbsurd it is to have Christmas stock out already. Its only funny/interesting the first 500 times a customer makes that comment.
  • DirtyPixel
    My local arse-end-of-nowhere Sainsbury's had these things installed 2 months ago. No fucker uses them and they're both constantly manned by a member of checkout staff, begging the question - WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT???
  • The B.
    I'm loving this thread, it's like grumpy old men never got cancelled. As for self service checkouts, B&Q have to be the worst, my local don't open the checkouts and force people to use the 4 self service jobbies albeit with 3 members of staff there to help them, apparently irony isn't a strong point in the Kingfisher world. But as everyone above says, if you don't know how to use them then feck off and use a manned till.
  • Pedegg
    they removed 4 of the regular checkouts to install these fuckers at hendon sainsburys, and the wait time has sure as shit went up by more than 5 seconds. first comment was spot on, put the thing down and its "unexpected item" dont and everything comes to a halt. these things are a complete waste of time, i really cant see what advantage they offer to the customer. the only place ive seen them work is in boots, because you dont need to put the items down on the useless scale platform.
  • Bunk
    They're quick and easy to use if you have an IQ over 50, plus you can avoid dealing with the idiots working on the till. Must try that expensive veg idea/potatoes idea though
  • klingelton
    I love these self service tills. I loved em when they trialled em in tescos in kensington and i love em now. They're fantastic. I don't love those morons who take a fucking trolley through with em. They're quicker if you're using baskets - 10 items or less style. They're not quicker if you're doing the annual shop for fritzel. why can't the fuckwit who's manning them turn them around and say "take your trolley to a trolley check out," a swift kick to the baby cannon to ensure no chance of pro-creation and send them on their way. end of rant.
  • Matt
    The Tesco and Asda ones work fine. The [email protected] that designed the Sainsburys and Morrisons ones needs to be shot though - 9 times out of 10 there is a problem. I've never been so close to punching a screen...
  • dai
    They are wonderful, but could be improved by the addition of a captcha, general knowledge question or simple maths problem at the start of the process. The self-service tills do require an IQ of more than 50 and any test* that could weed out those incapable of meeting these would help. * it just occured to me that "do you remember the second world war?" would suffice, a positive answer locking the till and directing them to the nearest staffed checkout.
  • James
    I think they are great. The more the better. Now I don't have to look at the people who have a lovely chat with the cashier while 300 items are scanned through before it occurs that they need to bag the shit up, then suddenly realising they need to dig through their handbag to find a purse containing invalid money off vouchers and coppers. Mind you just as annoying is the idiots at the self service checkout who repeats the same error time and time again whilst shaking their head and insulting the obviously useless machines. Or course the 7 year old using it afterwards seems to have no such problems.
  • Mark
    Should go back to the portable barcode scanners that Safeway used to use. Take it off the charging station, scan your shopping as you go round the supermarket and then return it to the charging station to pay at the end. Occasionally it will tell you that you needed to be rescanned, but it was much easier than the self service tills they have now.
  • M4RKM
    I find the morrisons ones the most annoying. Asda / Tesco / Sainsburys, all the ones I've used seem to have the same software, but the Sainsbury's ones have the bonus of MUTE button, so I can shut the fucking voice up. I rarely have problems, with unexpected item in bagging area, and actually find them a useful piece of technology. Shame about the numpties who can't press the buttons on the screen or don't know how to scan an item, that's the main issue, the wrong people use them... M
  • Kevin
    If I'm using the selfservice machine I want a discount for the money they are saving on staff.
  • Alexis
    M4RKM - yes the Morrisons ones are terrible. I don't know why the bags are put about a half a metre behind the machine on the right. You have to spend about a minute getting a bag out before you can start and then you have to place you items in a bag which is at arms length away, Which tit designed those machines? The Sainsburys ones always thank you when you've already walked into the distance.
  • Alexis
    Another thing - there are always people who don't get the queuing system. When you have 8 machines nobody knows whether to form two queues or one. Inevitably there's someone who just jumps the queue, causing me to wave my arms about in their general direction in silent disbelief (I am English after all).
  • Mr G.
    You know what really pisses me off? EVERYTHIIIIIIIING!
  • CRW
    Just been to the Netherlands on holiday. Best self service checkouts I've ever used in a store called C1000. No annoying voices. Even managed in a foreign language. Didn't accept my credit card though...
  • David d.
    Put your finger over the barcode and shout beep on every other item, and bag it. This should save a pretty penny over the year.
  • Joe
    @Mark: Waitrose still do the handheld scanner thing. It's called Quick Check and it works very well. I have no problems using any self service stuff, be it in a shop or a bank or whatever. I think its because I'm not a spastic and read instructions.
  • Chris
    What really annoys me is the need for bags and having to put items into bags. What is the point of it? Why can't I scan it, pay it then walk out without a bag?
  • Carl
    The more modern self checkouts work better than the older ones, much less of the unexpected items in baggage area, al thought the receipt seems to come out of a funny place on the latest ones. My local ASDA just had another row installed and its fantastic, if numpties stopped using them all the better, now all we need is lots of wireless payment card readers installed on them to save time with cards. Last time I went through a normal checkout they gave me a "free" bag for life that cost 5p, trying to get the money back took longer than doing the shopping in the first place. I'll stick to the machines in future, less screw ups.
  • Carl
    Chris you don't need to put the items in a bag, just place the items where the bag would sit so it can weight the items.
  • RTB
    Self service tills put people out of work. Thats why I'll never use them.
  • em
    Self service tills are just shit, nowt to do with reading instructions etc. If I wanted to play at shops I'd get a job in one.
  • Brad
    Yep self service tills are shit, try to get a 2 for one or get 2 for £1 type of item and 9/10 they dont show up so you end up calling someone over to tell it to add the price up right.
  • Cribbsy
    Self service tills are shite EXCEPT I've found in my local tesco homestores. They don't seem to have the weight sensor turned on in the bagging area, which means instead of "Scan, wait half a fucking hour for it to acknowledge you put something there, scan next, repeat forever" you can just whack everything through and pay in less than a minute. I pop in to pick up lunch on work breaks and I can be in and out in minutes while poor braindead fuckers queue up for some other poor braindead fucker to painstakingly ring it all up by hand. If more supermarkets turned off the weight checking and just paid some fucking massive security blokes to keep an eye on people as they put stuff through they'd be the muts nuts.
  • Andrew
    I use them all the time, they are very easy to use. However, I once did my whole weekly shop on one of the conveyor belt ones in Tesco's and when it got to £92 it switched itself off, after re-booting it had cleared everything I had put through (and bagged up!) so I was directed to a till manned by a real person to go through it all again. I now refuse to use them if I have more than £30 or £40 of shopping...
    Girl in B&Q told me that all their tills will be automated by next year.
  • James B.
    @Alex you made me chuckle with the Morrisons one, i've thought the same, almost designed without any consideration that the point is customers have shopping. Also the Sainso's one's thanking me as I nearly have my key in the door made me chuckle. When you can play games that are nearly movie quality I am never sure why these hulk of machines are so slow, it's like they've put a ZX81 (remember those) in them ;-)
  • ghostlight
    I've never used one of these ghastly machines and I never will.
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