Timmy elsewhereOctober 8, 2013 Tim WorstallTimmy Elsewhere16 CommentsAt the ASI. Cashiers may be better than self-checkout machines but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to get the cashiers. previousDidn’t we all try this before Dave?nextQuite so Your Grace, quite so 16 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere” JamesV October 8, 2013 at 8:48 am All customer service industry is rapidly dividing itself into chasing just two market segments. You shop either at Aldi or Selfridges, you fly either Ruinair or BA business class, you stay either in a posh hotel or easyhotel. Sticking with British supermarkets there is no question the discounters have dragged yer middle-class Sainsbury and Tesco downmarket, as Ruinair have done with the full-fat airlines. OK, most people do a combination of both (ratio dependent on disposables) but the point is it seems no one is seeking to offer something in between the stinking rich segment and the penny-pinching segment. Which is more support for the argument that the middle class is disappearing. JamesV October 8, 2013 at 8:54 am But Levy and Murmane are wrong on one other thing. The information doesn’t have to be in a form that computers understand 100%, it has to be in a form that computers understand to about the same level of accuracy as humans. And since checkout girls are about as reliable as telling shitake from shinola as a machine would be, the machines fulfil condition one. It at least hasn’t got to the stage of the USA where, if your bill is $48.17 and you hand over $50.17 the checkout girl gets a complete tizzy and has to get the cash register to calculate the change. GeoffH October 8, 2013 at 10:31 am JamesV. Tesco cornered the supply decades ago of wet-behind-the-ears checkout operators who were flummoxed by such transactions. Roundabout the time that commercial TV came to Britain. Eddy October 8, 2013 at 11:46 am “You shop either at Aldi or Selfridges” mmm, I think this is just wrong. Waitrose for example position themselves above Tesco, but obviously below Selfridges. There is more diversity than you allow for. Richard October 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm I don’t know where James is shopping, but Tesco has a huge range of products from Aldi levels of cheapness through to things not far below Selfridges. Tesco or Sainsbury’s will sell you a bag of wild rocket, a selection of olive oils including some interesting ones (Sainsbury’s own-brand is superb, really thick & peppery) and a reasonable balsamic vinegar (although I concede you’re better off going to Waitrose for your Parmesan; their cheese aisle is streets ahead of the others). How much more middle class do you want? OK, we’re men, we don’t want salad. So Tesco also do a pretty good dry-cure free-range bacon for that essential morning butty. Ljh October 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm If they can’t provide me with a human to take money off me, I will shop online without some crappy prerecorded voice bossing me around. Automated cashiers are the Dementors of shopping. JamesV October 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm I shop in Germany, where, granted, the distinction is sharper than in the UK. Also Germans don’t generally care about food so quality is never an issue when you can get it cheap. With the result that the supermarkets are crap and good quality stuff can be had in limited quantities at a price. I think Waitrose is targeting the top 5% – it might seem like a higher proportion of the population because of the circles you move in or the well-to-do ghettoes they tend to set up shop in. I am sure 80% of the population goes there less than once a year, if ever. Germany doesn’t have an equivalent, not having any proper national supermarket chains doesn’t help there. Luke October 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm “Also Germans don’t generally care about food..” Half remembered joke : Catholics, French and suchlike regard food as a pleasure: The English regard it as fuel: Lutherans regard it as ballast. Diogenes October 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm Surprised that no one has made the killer point: there always has to be an attendant on hand to authorise the purchase of alcohol, to remove tags, to solve problems when the machine detects “unauthorised item in the bagging area”, reboot the machine on occasion, to refill with paper etc etc. Self-scanning is great for small purchases but will be intensely irritating for major shopping expeditions. I would imagine that there will have to be 1 attendant per scanner to handle these difficulties – which results in a minimal level of staff-cutting. ukliberty October 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm I’ve never seen anyone with a trolley use one, just baskets. Waitrose lend a handheld scanner to scan barcodes as you shop – saves a lot of time at the end. Thornavis October 8, 2013 at 7:37 pm Anyone tried using one at a DIY store ? Can be a bloody nightmare, what with awkwardly shaped items and large things that don’t fit the bagging area and bar codes that have been standing outside in the rain. In my experience there’s always a member of staff hovering ready to dive in as soon as you start going at your own pace and the stupid machine starts squawking at you. The best place for these is libraries, where they free up space, save on staffing, a large saving if my library is anything to go by and are easy to use. A definite advance. JamesV October 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm Ikea use these things, usually have one beady eye for four checkouts to deter dishonesty. You could invent a great scam involving one person with a trolleyload of goodies at one checkout while granny has immense difficulty at another. All you need is a market in knock-off Ikea stuff. Tim Almond October 9, 2013 at 8:09 am Diogenes, “I would imagine that there will have to be 1 attendant per scanner to handle these difficulties – which results in a minimal level of staff-cutting.” No, it’s 1 to 6. The other thing is that it’s not just about reducing staff numbers. You can fit 3 self-checkouts in the space that a normal checkout takes up, because you don’t need to seat a person. Personally, if I’m just grabbing a few items, I prefer them, because I get through checkout faster. bloke in spain October 9, 2013 at 8:21 am Looking back up the comments one truly knows one’s reading Brits when varieties of vegetables are a basis for assessing social class. john b October 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm JamesV is right, although a bit harsh on checkout girls: the differentiating factor for non-barcoded produce is how quickly a trained staff member can tell the computer what it is, versus how quickly a customer can tell the computer what it is. And unless all fruit & veg are assigned a code the cashier has to memorise and enter (which I think is how it works at the German discounters), it’s not much quicker for them to hit “Fruit/Veg” / “L” / “Lemon” than it is for you to do it*. I’m assuming Ljh never buys fresh produce: I’m more than happy to buy anything that comes in a carton/packet/jar/tin online, but for fruit & veg I’d rather choose my own and buy at an auto-checkout than trust their packers. *unless the customer speaks proper English and lives in a country where two of the only-about-10 words that differ from proper English are ‘zucchini’ for courgettes and ‘eggplants’ for aubergines, under which circumstances a certain amount of zombified staring at the machine can occasionally arise. Tim Almond October 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm incidentally, I’ve seen a story about a Toshiba scanner that recognises objects using a camera for checkouts, so I think a lot of this discussion may be moot in a few years. 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