Tesco self service petition: why is there a petition to bring back till staff - how has supermarket responded?

The campaign has gained support on Twitter under the hashtag #BringBackTescoStaff

A petition which calls for more staff to be brought back to supermarket Tesco has gained support from over 110,000 people.

The petition was started online just two weeks ago by a London pensioner who said self-service tills with no staff are “inaccessible”.

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So, what is the petition, how have people reacted to it, how can you sign it, and how has Tesco responded?

Here’s what you need to know.

Why was the petition started?

The petition was started at the beginning of May by retired volunteer Pat McCarthy, from Brentford in West London.

The 69 year old began her campaign after visiting her local supermarket, the Tesco Extra in Osterley, where she said 75 per cent of the tills were self-service.

Her Change.Org petition is called “Tesco Stop The Replacement of People by Machines”.

Explaining the reason for her campaign, she said using self-service tills, which she described as “sort-it-yourself” machines, was “physically difficult and overwhelming”.

She said: “My local Tesco has inaccessible self-service tills with no staff which makes the shopping experience physically difficult and overwhelming.

“At my local Tesco mega-store, and probably all over the country, Tesco is bringing in new self-service and sort-it-yourself card only till machines.

“They make up 3/4 of the tills now.  These new tills are not accessible for people who don’t have credit cards and can only use cash, or those with little confidence to use these self-service card-only tills - myself included.”

“People such as carers, older people, disabled people with mobility problems or lifting problems have to queue.

McCarthy added that, in her view, the machines had replaced staff members - and that the lack of staff had taken away an invaluable part of her shopping experience.

“These new self-service card tills have displaced staff.  I love chatting with the staff, albeit briefly, especially as l live on my own.

“Talking with human staff is important to me. Now that experience has been taken away from me.”

McCarthy then appealed directly to Ken Murphy, Chief Executive of Tesco, to meet with her and discuss her petition.

She said: “I want Ken Murphy to bring staff back to do check-outs on the till and not have a ‘replace people with machines’ policy.

“If we lose, it means an erosion of a great shopping experience into a Tesco’s shopping nightmare.”

How many people have signed the petition?

At the time of writing, 110,560 people had signed the petition - but this number is continually increasing.

How have people responded to the petition?

Hundreds of thousands of people have already shown their support for the campaign, with many leaving comments on the petition page to explain the reason for their signature.

One person simply said: “Machines cannot replace people.”

Another urged campaigners to “vote with their wallets” and refuse to use self-service machines in all stores, not just Tesco.

“Since humans do the job perfectly well, and the alternative of getting rid of people to make way for machines is unacceptable, we should all vote with our wallets and refuse to use them.

“Send all supermarkets the message, no people means we won’t shop there.”

The petition has also led to a #BringBackTescoStaff hashtag being used on Twitter.

One Twitter user said: “A friendly face at a till improves customer experience hugely. It makes checking out easier, friendlier, and addresses problems. Machines alienate customers and are bad for both the business and the poor customer! #BringBackTescoStaff”.

One former employee, however, said that the self-service machines were useful.

“As ex Tesco staff, having self service machines doesn’t negate the need for floor staff. We still had to fix the bagging error codes and stock shelves, self checkout was helpful when we were understaffed and had a queue at the till.  #BringBackTescoStaff”.

Another person tweeted to say that the self-service tills are actually beneficial to some people.

“Being on the autistic spectrum, I find self service tills a godsend as I don’t have [to] queue anxiously, waiting [and] knowing I have to speak to someone.  So those tweeting #BringBackTescoStaff stop and think about people different to you.”

Another Twitter user, however, said that there are times that human help is needed when paying for goods, for example when items are age restricted.

“#BringBackTescoStaff @Tesco why have you no staff anymore? I don’t mind self serve if I have a quick basket but not for a trolley! Plus all the legal age limits on so many products that you need an assistant for. For goodness sake we don’t want robots, we want humans! #sortit

How has Tesco responded?

Tesco said that their staff are “vital” and will “always be on hand” to help customers.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our colleagues and the friendly service they provide are absolutely vital to our stores and will always be on hand to help our customers, whether they are checking out at one of our colleague-operated or self-service checkouts.

“We first introduced self-service checkouts nearly 20 years ago to give our customers a choice and our stores have both types of checkout.”

How can you sign the petition?

If you would like to show your support to the campaign you can sign the petition.