Self Checkout - Customer Service is Important Here Also


The Self Checkout is becoming more common at major retailers. I am comfortable using them especially when I only have a few items to purchase. They are a way to reduce line ups and to enable one staff member to oversee more than one checkout lane.

Even though the customer is doing the work customer service is still important especially when something doesn't work or the customer has issues using the self-checkout system. This is where my story begins.

I have used the self-checkout at a major Canadian grocery retailer for a number of years now. I would assess that of all of my shopping trips that I have probably used the self-checkout at least 95% of the time at this retailer.

On a recent trip I scanned my items and the total was $25.75. I didn't have a five dollar bill with me but I did have $30.75. I figured that instead of putting $30.00 into the machine and getting $4.25 in change I would go with $30.75 and get a $5 dollar bill back.

I put the coins into their slot and watched the total due reduce on the screen. Next it was time for the $10 and $20 bill to go into the slot with the flashing green light. A bracketed (5.00) showed that money was owed to me and I waited for the $5.00 bill to emerge from the machine. I waited and waited. The machine had frozen. OK, time to get the attention of the cashier overseeing the self-checkout.

She came over, I showed her the screen and explained that $5.00 was not being dispensed by the machine. She told me that I was wrong I owed $5.00.

I was confused because the screens on the self-checkout had been the same for years with a (5.00) meaning the system owed the customer money. The cashier had worked there for a number of years and I had seen her overseeing self-checkout on possibly a hundred occasions.

I explained that the total was $25.75 and I put $30.75 in the system hence that is why it was showing it owed me $5.00. Alas, once again I was told that I owed the system $5.00.

There is that point where you know that you are right and can't understand why the person you are talking to doesn't understand. Especially, when the person should know the system and understand what the screens are saying. Then you prove your point by trying to put another $20.00 into the machine which you can't do because it won't accept anymore money.

Reluctantly the cashier says they will call a supervisor. I didn't understand this because when other I've seen other customers have issues with money not dispensing the cashier would get the key, open the machine and solve the issue for the customer.

I'm standing at the self-checkout when the cashier, now at her computer station tells me that her screen shows that I still owe $5.00. I walk over to her system and she is showing me that my total owing is $30.75. Seriously, the total is in red which is the amount tendered. Please call the supervisor.

I go back to the self-checkout thoroughly annoyed and waste some more time waiting for the supervisor, who I must admit came in a timely manner.

The cashier starts to explain that I owe $5.00 ...... No, I cut that conversation off. Now I admit that I probably shouldn't have done that but I was go to be deal in facts and I wasn't going to go through the details again.

The supervisor tries to get the machine to dispense a five dollar bill by taking the money tray out and putting it in the machine. It still doesn't feed so she pulls out the money tray and gives me the $5.00.

I asked her if the (5.00) on the screen meant that I was owed money. I knew the answer but I wanted to make it clear that I knew that I was owed money and wasn't trying to somehow commit fraud.

It is absolutely annoying to be told that what you are saying is wrong, especially since you've seen the self-checkout in action hundreds of times. It may even be more annoying that the cashier is experienced or should be, in the operation of the system but can't see the facts that are presented to them.

Teachable Moment.

I received my $5.00 and left the store with my groceries.

Hopefully the supervisor had a discussion with the cashier, who didn't stick around when the supervisor came to the self-checkout. Maybe the cashier didn't feel that she needed to learn something.

The supervisor needs to find out why the cashier thought that $30.75 was the amount owed and why she didn't understand that the screens showed $5.00 was the amount owing to the customer. The cashier is very experienced and if I was the supervisor I would be very concerned that she didn't seem to understand what the system was telling her.

You also have to wonder if there are other things about cash or self-checkout the cashier is misinterpreting.

I know some people would not return to the store if they had such a simple problem turn into a large issue. I will and have gone back. However, I will not use self-checkout if that particular cashier is there.

Training, communication and listening could have avoided this situation.

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