Yes, the self-checkout is obviously the best way to check out. Why are we even debating this anymore?
· · Jul 9, 2022 ·

I know "CNN Gets Something Wrong" is not a world-ending headline. But man, I never thought they'd blow it this badly:

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

"Please place item in the bag."

"Please wait for assistance."

If you've encountered these irritating alerts at the self-checkout machine, you're not alone.

According to a survey last year of 1,000 shoppers, 67% said they'd experienced a failure at the self-checkout lane. Errors at the kiosks are so common that they have even spawned dozens of memes and TikTok videos.

"We're in 2022. One would expect the self-checkout experience to be flawless. We're not there at all," said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who has researched self-checkout.


Look, spurious objections notwithstanding, obviously self-checkout is the best form of checking out that has ever been conceived by the mind of man. Let us check off the ways why:

It's way faster.

There's just no doubt about it: Checking out yourself is always a whole lot faster. I don't know why that should be the case, given that the people in charge of checkouts do it for like eight hours a day, five days a week.

Maybe the average shopper is just a really good scanner. Maybe it's because grocery stores often only have like two checkout aisles open while there are often six or eight self-checkouts available. Whatever the case, if you see six shoppers lined up at a normal checkout line, and six other shoppers lined up at the head of a self-checkout aisle, you're obviously picking the latter.


It's not that hard

As our friends at CNN note, there can be a fair number of confusing technological mishaps with the self-checkout: "Please wait for assistance," "Please remove the last scanned item from the bagging area."

But those really aren't that hard to solve, either. Visit a self-checkout half a dozen times or less and you can most assuredly figure out where the machine gets tripped up and how to avoid it. And surely the technology will become even more refined over time, and the odd technological hangups less numerous.

Self-bagging is way more efficient

Look, I'm not trying to dunk on checkout clerks, who tend to be pretty nice and affable people. But how often do you leave the grocery store with three bulky paper bags where you could have just as easily fit all your groceries into one?

When someone else bags your groceries, they tend to place less emphasis on logistics and conservation (particularly if they've got a bunch of people in line behind you). When you bag your own groceries, you prioritize space—meaning you may very well be able to get all of your groceries into a single large paper bag (I do this nearly every week). That's much easier to get out to the car, especially if you've got kids in tow.


It's potentially less awkward

Did you go over budget this week? Did you discover the Parmigianno-Reggiano was not actually on sale for $11.99/lb? If a human being is scanning you up, it can feel a bit embarrassing to ask to take it off.

Far more discreet is the self-checkout: You can simply take it off yourself. Some models of self-checkout let you set the item aside and continue on; others do require that you hand the item to the clerk. But either way it's way less conspicuous.

In summary: Yes, the self-checkout is better. CNN misses the mark yet again!

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