To the editor: Self-checkout no convenience at convenience store

I was driving home from Charlotte to South Londonderry the other day after working long hours. I was tired and thought it would be a good idea to stop at a convenience store for a coffee with a little hot chocolate in it to perk me for the drive.

An unidentified self-checkout machine. “Self-checkout not-so-high-tech” by anjsimmo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A Maplefields (location to remain nameless to protect the identity of the employees) appeared before my eyes. On the way in I noticed two men kibitzing behind the counter after apparently completing all their tasks at hand and taking a respite. Otherwise, the store was virtually empty.

I made my cup of coffee and gathered a couple of dollars to pay for it. Still a bit groggy and dazed from working, I headed to the counter to pay. There, after breaking up the conversation, I was informed that the store was all self-check-out now.

One of the gentlemen started rapid-fire instructions on how to pay for my coffee. “Place it in the scale… turn it so it can be scanned, scan it, select cash or credit, you selected cash? Reach under the counter and insert your cash into the slot.” For the record, the coffee was $1.79 and I had two single dollar bills in my hand.

Still dazed and not understanding how it was convenient for me — the customer at a convenience store — to be taking orders from the person behind the counter as if I were an employee, I put the cash down on the counter and said, “I am done,” turned and walked out, leaving Maplefields with a tidy 21 cent profit on my coffee. The employee said. “Sir, sir, you must put your money in the slot!” I kept walking. The employee said, “Then never come back!” I said, “I won’t,” which is a true statement.

I am almost 63 years old, and while I was an early adopter of all things “computer” and regularly use computer aided design at work and am begrudgingly our company’s IT guy, taking care of servers, glitches and computer purchases, I admit I am old school when it comes to self-checkout.

We as a society have been conditioned to pump our own gas, gather our own groceries and now check ourselves out using lousy technology so full of errors an attendant is still needed to hover over us to correct mistakes. What is next? Stocking the shelves?

Further item for the record:  It isn’t the employees’ fault that management has told them to train customers, against the customers’ will, to be check-out clerks. It is management’s fault. Last item for the record: Any store that insists that I use their crappy self-checkout system has lost me as a customer.


Doug Friant
South Londonderry

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  1. Darryl Douglas says:

    I personally like the self-checkout. That said I believe it should be a choice not a requirement.

  2. Bruce Frauman says:

    I’m not sure what I would have done in your situation Doug. I have not (yet) encountered Maplefield’s self check system. I do think it is horrendous not to have the option of a person to check me out. I’ve done both at the Londonderry Village Market. There are times when an employee has to confirm I am using my own bag, step in when the computer senses something it does not recognize on the scale, and other glitches. I am learning how to find and type in produce codes. I often pack my own bags even with a human running everything through. Often, they get though my purchases faster than I can at self-checkout. It is clearly a cost saving strategy for the retailers. A mixed bag. But, again, every store should at least have the option of human check out or self checkout.

  3. Elizabeth Malko says:

    I actually prefer self check out but the Maplefields system is particularly user unfriendly.

  4. I may be in the minority but I love self checkout. I can pack my bags the way I like for optimal unpacking at home, don’t have to worry that a cashier was handling dirty money, eating things my children are allergic to and getting it on my items, or coughing into their hands before handling my produce. I will gladly self checkout anytime possible.

  5. Maya Drummond says:

    Doug, I COMPLETELY agree with you. If Maplefields no longer has the most basic customer service, I will not bother shopping there. The de-humanization of commerce has become depressing. It is not good for anyone.

  6. Mike Doane says:

    I agree totally with you Doug. I also went into a Maplefields in Vermont last summer and after picking up some snacks for the road, I proceeded to the counter to check out. There were three clerks standing behind the counter joking with each other. I pulled the money from my wallet and stood there waiting for them to check me out. After a few seconds one of them instructed me that I had to check myself out. I reluctantly did so with them instructing me step by step on how, never giving any other assistance. As I left with my purchase, I told them that if this is the way it will be in their store, I will never return. TRUE STATEMENT! I will not. Mike Doane

  7. Arlene Mutschler says:

    I will start the rant. I try NOT to use self check out. I feel I am giving a person job security but using their services. It has nothing to be with being “old” and not computer literate, as I AM capable of handling most computerized thing. As evident by my typing the response to my email from the Telegraph. I too will NOT go to a maple store. So the store is paying two people to stand behind a counter and do NOTHING? That is NOT good management. If they want to know how to manage their stores? they should do research.