Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Self-service in supermarkets means help yourself – to the tune of £3 billion a year

Or just steal it?

Just over three years since I posted about self-scanning, self-service tills, and the opportunities for theft.

The figures just published show that shoplifters are stealing £3billion a year using self-service!

One in four people actually admit to stealing almost £25-worth each month so you wonder about the actual numbers. The level of stealing has doubled in the last four years equivalent to £5 per person in Britain per month usually vegetables, toiletries and dairy products. Northerners  and Scots steal almost twice as much as Southerners

Some of the losses are attributed to faulty equipment which doesn’t scan or register items properly but 40% of the shoplifters said they knew they could get away with it.

With 50,000 machines – 12,000 in Tesco alone – the potential for theft is enormous. And who pays for it? Well honest customers do as prices are adjusted to allow for theft.

The company which carried out the survey said “ Supermarkets need to increase the number of staff who monitor the self-scan check-outs even though the point of these is to reduce the need for staff“.

Call me a Luddite but I prefer to actually pay at a till with some human interaction. All these cost-saving attempts at raising  productivity have loopholes that people will exploit.

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Tesco – Scan as you shop. Soon you won’t have staff on checkouts

SCAN0116My local Tesco has introduced a new way of serving customers today. It’s called Scan as you Shop.

P1020522Basically after registering your club card you pick up a hand-held scanner and do your shopping.

You pick your items, scan them and put them straight into your own bags in your trolley. Then when you’ve finished shopping you pay at the checkouts and you’re done.

Any snags?

  • Well you need to be a club card holder so that will add you to their marketing database.
  • Some products aren’t going to scan so you have to get a customer service assistant to help you at the end of your shop
  • Items with security tags ditto

Any other problems? Well although stores generally won’t admit it it’s generally believed that there is more stolen through using self-serve checkouts (1 in 5 customers according to one source). This idea opens up even more opportunities for people to put items in their bag without paying for it.

In the instruction leaflet you can see that the first point they make is that you have to scan every item – to ensure an accurate till receipt. Of course that’s why they are telling you to do it.  Don’t honest people i.e. most of us, understand that you have to scan everything you’re  buying?

Then see the point about what they euphemistically call “service checks“. The leaflet explains that sometimes you will be randomly chosen to have some items re-scanned, maybe the whole trolley “to make sure they have all been scanned  successfully“. Of course that’s the reason, and they haven’t been watching you on CCTV?ScanTesco

I admit I’m a Luddite when it comes to customer service. I like to have an interaction with a human being which is why I don’t use internet banking (part from its security flaws).

I‘ve posted on this before when they introduced the self-service checkouts and I still won’t use them.

I’ve complained several times to Tesco managers about the shutting of checkout lanes at peak times and all they say is that the shifts have finished and they’re doing the best they can.  Well who organises the shift rosters if not the managers? Have they heard of twilight shifts?

A checkout assistant recently told me that although she was on a permanent contract all new staff were on zero hours contracts and if they refused two offers of work they were out. How can that attitude encourage staff to give of their best and provide a good customer service?

Tesco is losing market share, its customer service is getting worse (in store and on-line), and introducing  more machines for shoppers to contend with is not the answer.

When Tesco tried to expand into the American market with Fresh & Easy my understanding is that it relied heavily on checkout machines. See where that got them, they lost a fortune (£1.2 Billion) before pulling out.

In USA today a year ago, reporting that decision, it was said that: “To adapt to changing U.K. tastes, Tesco, which started trading in 1924, is trying to create a better shopping experience: Staff will be more attentive, shelves better stocked and bigger stores will have space for customers to sit down and have a coffee or family-friendly restaurants”. The idea is to have customers enjoy their visits more and stay longer. The store is trying to re-engage with its customers, and do what Shore Capital’s Black described as a “lot more that makes it softer and warmer and friendlier.

I don’t see any evidence of that and certainly not with this latest gimmick.

As Edmund Burke, a British philosopher, once said “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.“.


1 Comment

Be a Luddite & save jobs!

I hate those self-service scanning machines in supermarkets. Tesco has long given up on the “two in a queue” customer service philosophy and now tries to persuade customers to use the self-service machines.

From what I’ve seen these are tedious to use with various menus to search through, don’t always work, and require staff on standby to help – and presumably deter theft.

The theft deterrence obviously doesn’t work as 7% of shoppers admit stealing when using self-service machines.

So you don’t have to be a celebrity to steal – like chef AWT. But celebs have always been partial to the odd freebie. Richard Madeley of “Richard & Judy” fame was once charged with shop-lifting champagne at Tesco’s but was acquitted after claiming memory loss. Not sure what AWT is claiming after being caught on camera five times and receiving a police caution but he says he’s seeking therapy, so that’s alright.

But back to the self-service machines. When ever I am asked to use them by a member of staff I refuse and ask them if they realise they are doing themselves out of jobs.

It’s the same in the banks. Don’t staff realise that every time we are asked to pay in by machine their job is put at risk?

And I realise I run the risk of being accused of being a Luddite but I prefer to be served by a person. Machines do not give you customer service.