Self-serve not saving the supermarkets after all

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We’re doing the work but they’re not saving cash

If you’re a regular supermarket shopper you’ll be very familiar with the rise of the self-service checkout. In a bid to save on staffing, the supermarkets have us serving ourselves so they can save on their costs. But it seems the move may have backfired.

Aussies are the self-service leaders

  • Along with Italy, Australia leads the self-service world.
  • The self-serve phenomenon isn’t just limited to the supermarket. From ATMs, checking in for a domestic flight or topping up your transport card, Aussies have to DIY many everyday transactions without having a person serve them.
  • When it comes to paying for our groceries, we’re now expected to do the work ourselves. Gone are the days of a smile and a friendly chat with the checkout operator.

Faster perhaps, but not cheaper

  • The supermarkets argue that self-service is all about serving us faster.
  • The supermarkets say that because they can fit more self-service registers into the same space as just one or two staffed checkouts, they’re reducing queues and getting us out the door quicker.
  • They hoped that this process would save them and their shareholders some cash. Turns out they were wrong.

Savings not making sense

  • It amounts to a bit of a “ha-ha, told you so!” moment for most of us.
  • Sure, having self-service checkouts saves the supermarket the cost of extra checkout operator’s wages.
  • But it also adds a few new costs in. And that’s where the numbers don’t really add up.

From setup through to servicing

  • Self-service checkouts cost a heap of cash to install and maintain.
  • The behind the scenes maintenance and servicing is also expensive and time consuming – and we all know time is money!
  • Self service areas still require staffing, and any regular supermarket shopper knows how common it is to see several self-service checkouts out of order. 

Sneaking savings

  • But the biggest costs to supermarkets are the savings that shoppers try to make for themselves.
  • Many feel that if they’re going to have to do the hard work of tallying and packaging their own groceries, then they’re entitled to score themselves a few savings.
  • Exotic stone fruit might be entered in as cheap and cheerful potatoes, or perhaps an item here and there makes it into the bagging area without being scanned.

Loss of loyalty

  • The other significant cost to supermarkets is the loss in loyalty.
  • When customers are having to do the work for themselves, there’s no ‘friendly face’ for them to identify with.
  • The supermarket shopping experience becomes faceless and impersonal. As a result, our loyalty declines, and we lose any allegiance we had to shopping at a particular place.

So if you’re constantly finding yourself standing in a long and frustrating queue, waiting for the privilege of scanning and paying for you groceries, ask yourself….why?

Why indeed.

Want more?

For more info and tips on how to make some great cash savings at the supermarket, check out our post on how to save without breaking the rules.