Consumers Prefer Machines to People

Nov 17, 2003

By George Anderson

Dexter Thomas does it because he doesn’t want to “deal with the cashiers and their attitude.”

Kimberly Ward does it because it’s “a lot more convenient” and besides, dealing with people “just slows you down.”

Mr. Thomas and Ms. Ward are two of the consumers who prefer to handle daily transactions from banking to supermarket shopping without the aid of a human being; choosing to do
it themselves by touching a screen, scanning products or clicking on a link, reports the New York Times.

The allure of self-service machines for business is obvious says Greg Buzek, president of the IHL Consulting Group. “They cost less than humans” and “self-service machines never
call in sick. You don’t have to worry about scheduling issues. You don’t have to worry about vacations.”

A study recently released by ACNielsen (a sponsor of RetailWire) found 61 percent of U.S. households have used self-checkout lanes. Nearly one in three says self-checkouts are
“great” while 16 percent find them “frustrating” to use.

Todd Hale, senior vice president, ACNielsen Consumer Insights, says, “It’s good news for retailers that so many households have tried the new lanes. However, retailers who want
to grow consumer acceptance, satisfaction, and continued use of the do-it-yourself checkout lanes need to offer shoppers more help in getting comfortable with the process.”

Moderator’s Comment: Which provides retailers with a better opportunity to compete – a highly personable staff of front-end personnel or money-saving

It would appear many, if not most, consumers trust machines more than people based on the Times piece.

Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University observes, “If we asked people even a few years ago which would be more likely to make
a mistake, an A.T.M. or a cashier, they would say the A.T.M. Now people would say the cashier. That’s an amazing change.”
Anderson – Moderator

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