New World at Victoria park has four self-serve check-outs.
For the most part the system is pretty intuitive and convenient to use. The user interface guiding users through the scanning and payment process is actually very well designed.
The basic principle of the system is that users scan the item, and then place it in plastic bag in the adjacent bagging area.
There is a weight sensor in the bagging area, which prevents users from scanning the next item before they have placed the current item in the bagging area. Similarly, users cannot place an item directly into the bagging area because the system detects it has not been scanned.
There are of course other ways to cheat the system, e.g. buying cashews and identifying them as peanuts, scanning paper towels, but putting a bottle of wine in the bagging area. Then again, if you were that way inclined you could skip the entire hassle, and just try shop-lifting instead.
Nonetheless the self-service check-outs do also have a number of shortcomings, mostly around how the supermarket installed them.
- Queuing chaos. There are two self-service check-out rows, each with two counters.
However, it is very unclear as to where to queue for these.What should happen is that customers follow the English queuing method where they assemble in the center and then move to the first counter that becomes free (much like queuing for check-in at the airport). But because there is no marked queuing area, and we live in a multi-cultural society, this rarely works. Most of the time, other customers fail to notice the existing queue, form their own solo queue, and then inadvertently push in as the next counter becomes available.
A simple ‘queue here’ sign and some tape on the floor would fix this.
- Unable to process over-sized or underweight items. A 18-roll pack of toilet paper is too big to fit in the bagging area. Likewise a packet of hair-ties is too light and also does not trigger the sensor.
- No support for multi-bag purchases. Full plastic shopping bags end up spilling onto the floor. Then, once the customer has paid for the items, they try and manoeuvre their empty trolley through the grocery carnage before rather inefficiently proceeding to reload it.With conventional check-out aisles, customers take items from their trolley, have them scanned and placed in the empty trolley at the end of the counter from the previous customer.
A similar system needs to be established here.
- Unintuitive bagging work-flow. Typically customers walk up to the counter, scan the first item, and then proceed to put it in the bagging area. At this point they realise they first need to open the next plastic bag. This results in the amusing situation of the customer trying to open the plastic bag with their left hand while holding the scanned item in their right-hand, much to the frustration of onlooking queuing customers.
The system needs to have a temporary staging area where customers can put their scanned item, prior to adding it to the bag.
Still, these issues aside, the self-service check-out works quite well. You see exactly what you’re buying, and how much you’re paying for each item, and most importantly it makes it more difficult for Beau to smuggle giant jelly beans into our weekly acquisitions.