Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Those Self-service tills

It’s a real pet hate of mine but these Self-service tills have gone too far. I had a very bad shopping experience at Sainsbury’s Bagshot Road Bracknell. It took me so long to do my shopping that I almost left it there (I know my brother did recently).

Anyway the English way of informing a company of your displeasure is to write them a letter, which I sent to the Bracknell Store and Holborn, see below.

Dear Customer Services Manager;

I would like to complain about the growing use of self-service tills especially when the tills are designed to cater for a weeks family shopping (Till with a conveyer belt).

I shopped at your Bracknell, Bagshot road store on Saturday 20th June in the evening. This store has recently had many till spaces converted to self-service. During this visit I had some problems with the self-service till;

Cash is not always accepted in them (the customer in front of me could not use their money in the till and had to wait for at least 8 minutes for some assistance with feeding the money into the till.

The till did not accept a few of my items and I required help twice with these.

There appeared to be only two conveyer belt tills that were staffed and they were too busy. This is why I opted for the self-service till, however I feel like I was forced to use the self-service till due to the lack of checkout staff.

The till kept on asking me to not take items off the conveyor belt and even asked for me to put the items back on the belt.

Luckily I had some one to give me a hand but if I had done my shopping on my own then I would of had to pack afterwards rather then when the checkout staff handed me the items.

I also have had a number of other concerns with these self-services tills;

How would I use these tills if I were disabled?

Do your stores now require less staff?

I feel as if the personal touch of the staff has been lost with all this self-service as I also chat to the checkout staff.

Not everyone can use a machine or at least others may find it very hard to use. I know my Grandmother for one would find the new tills very hard to use or understand especially when they give instructions

I do understand the convenience of the one-basket tills if I am only buying a few items but I found this experience so frustrating that I have now changed the supermarket I shop at and will not visit this store again.

In the past Sainsbury’s have come up with some innovative ideas like the self-scan hand held devices that are convenient. But I do feel as if your customers are now being forced to go self-service at a loss of personal customer service for which I had held your store in high regard.

I would like to add that I am very happy with the quality, stock levels and price of the food provided by the Bagshot Road Store it is purely the self-service tills that have caused my unhappiness.

I am a tech savvy person and have no problems operating complicated technical systems and computers. I actually suspect that the self-service tills do not save time but only save on staffing costs.

Please do not send me any vouchers in reply to this letter. What I would like is for there to always be adequate staff and less self-service tills and an explanation as to what is being done to improve the situation at Bracknell Bagshot Road so that I can visit this store again in the future.

Many Thanks

A Previously Customer

I realise that Sainsbury’s are not the only company doing this but this is the store that I had my bad experience at. I would also say that I can operate a machine fine in most cases but it’s not just about me what about other shoppers, this is not so easy for all of us. I am of course ok with some self-service tills but I hate being forced to do something when I suspect a cost saving is really dressed but as a convenience.

Update – visited the store today (8th July 09 8.15pm) turns out there are only 4 staff on although the store was not busy however the staffed tills were busy


  1. Yeh they can sometimes take longer then the people tills I am frightened of them and avoid using them where possible. Down here we do seem to have only four of them so you can choose and there are always people on hand to help you.However I always feel very stupid when I use them and do prefer the personal touch. Wonder what reply you will get

  2. I remember taking my friend to Sainsbury's on evening after all the new checkouts were installed. She was on crutches having had a Knee Replacement. I recall the massive queues due to there being inadequate levels of staff, so only about five checkouts were open.

    The most upsetting thing about the whole experience, was that a number of staff were just hanging about doing nothing, probably waiting to wave a bottle of wine through a checkout manned by an under 18. It was obvious my friend was struggling to stand, she had to do this for over half an hour, no one offered assistence, or found her somewhere to sit.

    Last week I was at Sainsburys and used the self check out, what a nightmare. We are being encouraged to use our own bags, but it doesn't ask that you that before you start shopping, it is not easy to chose the own bag option. It also doesn't make it easy to use your nectar card because of the large start button which one is automatically drawn to. All in all, the software developers and the designers have probably never shopped in Sainsburys. The user interface and quality of human Computer interaction is terrible. There is no room on the smaller checkouts to hold the checked out shopping items, the bag holder takes up all the space and if you remove a bag the system screams at you.

    All Sainsburys bagshot road have done, is turn what used to be a good shopping experience into a total nightmare.

    However it is useful to tell you that even though the Bagshot Road Sainsburys is a terrible shopping experience, the other Sainburys stores are much better, this seems to be a general concensis among other customers I have spoken to in the Bagshot road store. The problem is probably down to poor management in the Bagshot Road Store.

    They really need more staff and there are plenty of students who can't find part time work at the moment, so they can't say they have recruitment problems.

    I have now discovered that Morrisons is a lovely little supermarket, well priced products and is also user friendly, so they now have my custom.

    Finally, ALDI opens in Birch Hill on the 16th July and I am looking forward to be able to having another choice of supermarket.

    Sainsburys has really damaged itself, it will soon be empty...The people will have voted with their feet.

  3. I shop regularly at Bagshot Road, and whilst self-scan takes a while to get used to, it is a good idea.

    All supermarkets are having to find ways of reducing running costs. One of the major costs of any business is staff wages. Self-service tills is one way of reducing this bill. People want low prices - Costs have to be reduced somewhere. This is not a recruitment issue. The minimum wage is one of the factors behind these changes. Self-service tills are also unlikely to go off sick - Ok they break occasionally, but there are plenty of them. Every checkout person will cost the store over £10.00 per hour, and will require lunch breaks, training, etc etc.

    Waitrose, ASda and Tesco have all installed self-service tills, and I can guarantee that others will follow. They have to in order to remain competitive.

    As for the previous poster, I would be very amused if the new Aldi store in Birch hill has self-service tills.

    I know that they are not always quicker, but if I have only a few items, I am more than happy to self-scan and get out quickly, rather than wait behind someone with a trolley full of shopping.

  4. I find using the self-service till is usually quicker than queuing for a manned checkout - providing you have less than four items. HOWEVER, this is after several months of using the tills and finding the Sainsbury Bagshot Road tills totally user-unfriendly. The messages are not clear; it is difficult to use your own bag; it doesn't take the nectar card at the point it asks for it, only at the end; it frequently asks you to replace the item just scanned no matter how carefully you process it; assistants take time to come to your aid. I understand that all supermarkets are trying to cut costs but taking staff off checkout to stand around doing nothing is not cutting costs. Make the system more efficient and user-friendly and nearly all of us will be happy using the self-checkout.

  5. I am not sure that Sainsbury is the right address to complain... I think that the company who designed this product is called NCR. You are right, these machines are a usability nightmare and I try not to use them if I can. The main problem is that they try to register each time you add/remove an item to prevent theft.

  6. But surely Sainsbury's chose the supplier for the tills? If they aren't up to scratch, that's Sainsbury's responsibility.

  7. At Sainsburys Bagshot rd this morning, i had no option. No checkout staff in sight, so self serve it was. Awful as usual. Fine for a few items, sh!t for doing the weeks shop. i feel very badly treated, as a customer who spends thousands a year in there. sainsburys are most interested, not in customer service and satisfaction, but their profit margins. As a retail manager myself , i would never consider treating my customers that way and would fully expect to loose trade if i tried to. The tills are a long way from being user friendly, and i can think of few worse things than being told what to do by a machine. Am i the only person who rants back at them? ;-)