In praise of self-service tills, as Booths supermarket goes all-in for a fully-staffed checkout experience
While fully-staffed checkouts are great in practice, some may find them hard to navigate
and live on Freeview channel 276
Supermarket chain Booths has taken the lead by reintroducing fully-staffed checkout counters and phasing out the majority of its self-service terminals.
Booths - often likened to a "northern Waitrose" - operates 16 stores in Lancashire and has branches in Yorkshire and Cheshire, and has since 1847 upheld its philosophy to "sell the best goods available, in attractive stores, staffed with first class assistants".
"We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores," a spokesperson said. "Delighting customers with our warm northern welcome is part of our DNA and we continue to invest in our people to ensure we remain true to that ethos."
Maybe it's the southerner in me. Maybe it's the medicated anxious wreck that lies just beneath the surface. But I for one welcome a supermarket with myriad self-service checkouts to choose from.
Many of the supermarkets in my local area - obviously not comparable to a northern Waitrose, I'm talking your more run of the mill, nationwide chains - have in recent weeks expanded their selection of computerised self-serve tills.
And while potential job losses are always something to be lamented, the introduction of even more robotic, faceless cashiers is something I embrace. Supermarkets - with their bright lights, loud noises and crowded spaces - can be overwhelming at the best of times, and self-service checkouts offer a quieter and less chaotic alternative.
It also doesn't help that my haphazard approach to grocery shopping often leaves me with the need to dash out for last-minute supplies at all hours of the day.
At this point, the weekly "Big Shop" is an aspirational ideal which may never re-enter my life, and brown rice and Poptarts, chamomile tea and economy vodka is a car crash of a shopping basket I'd rather not share with a disgruntled (human) cashier at the end of a long shift.
The stereotypically subservient female automaton inside Sainsbury's self-service machines won't judge. I am, of course, coming at this from a slight self-deprecating, humorous angle, but there are genuine issues of accessibility at stake here.
While I do suffer from often crippling anxiety - reduced by self-checkouts that minimise the need to interact with unfamiliar people - others go through life with more "substantial" needs.
Individuals on the autism spectrum for instance, may find comfort in routines and predictability. Self-service checkouts can provide a consistent and predictable shopping experience, allowing them to navigate the process at their own pace.
Traditional staffed checkouts often require social interaction, which can be challenging for some neurodivergent individuals who struggle with social communication, some may prefer to handle their transactions themselves, avoiding potential misunderstandings or judgement from cashiers.
The removal of self-service checkouts could pose challenges for these individuals, making the shopping experience less accessible.
While I understand the sentiment behind Booth's reintroduction of human staff - and the worker in me supports job security in every industry - sometimes it's nice to be able to scan through your wares as part of your own, private transaction.