SoCal Consumers Prefer Not To Do It Themselves

Jul 19, 2004

By George Anderson

Southern California is often said to be the place where new trends start. But, in one instance, it appears as though the progressive consumers of the left coast prefer to do things the old-fashioned way.

According to a L.A. Daily News report, consumers in Southern California are not sold on the need for or benefits of self-checkouts and many prefer to wait on lines with cashiers than check themselves out.

Hira Patterson, a restaurant owner, explained, “If I could get them cheaper because I did it, I’d do it, but there’s really no incentive now. And whenever you use them, there’s usually a problem.”

Trish Romano, another Southern California consumer finds the technology a bit daunting. “I don’t want to feel like I’m holding up the line because I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said. “And I figure that I’m paying for the checkers, so why not have them do it?”

Lee Holman, vice president of product development for IHL Consulting Group can understand the concerns of consumers like Ms. Romano.

“This machine can be kind of daunting,” he said. “It’s got all the gizmos and lights on the front when you just want to buy your milk and cheese. You’ve got to swipe your credit card, it yells at you if you do something wrong. There’s really lots of hand-holding by the retailer that needs to happen if people will get into these.”

Ralphs’ spokesperson Terry O’Neil said it will take time for consumers to become comfortable using the self-scanning systems. “It’s hard to get them to change and people truly do like that human touch. That’s most important to people, even if it’s going to take longer. They trust the human over the machine; they feel more welcome if they’ve got a human interaction.”

Moderator’s Comment: Why do consumers in Southern California appear to be more reluctant to use self-checkouts than
those in other parts of the country? What are the greatest obstacles manufacturers of these systems and retailers face in overcoming consumer resistance to self-checkouts?

Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, said the technology is being pushed by retailers and not necessarily by consumer demand. “A lot of retailers
want to make them popular, but the consumer’s not that enamored with them,” he said. “If everything goes right, it’s great, but if something goes wrong, what do you do? Scream
‘help’ until someone comes to find you?”

Having had more than our share of problems in checkouts manned by human beings, we’re not in the least bit reluctant about using self-checkouts. But, although
we happily use self-scanners, we have to echo the concern over when things go wrong. The wait for a store employee to show up and help fix problems with an item not being found
in the system or something else seems interminable when there’s a line of people in queue or if you are in a rush.

George Anderson – Moderator

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