Dear Kroger, Please Make Self Check-Out Suck Less

Self check-out is great if, say, you’ve got one of those supermarkets where the teenaged clerks hate you for choosing their lane and spend more time talking to each other than scanning your items. It’s not so great if you force all of your customers to use the system because you’ve decided to close down every other human-powered lane but one.

It also has to work correctly, which you can see from Jacob’s email below was not the case at his local Kroger.

Companies go to great lengths in the name of cost savings – and generally I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is when companies utterly destroy customer service in the name of cost savings.

I’m looking at you, Kroger.

We recently moved and your store at [redacted] is now the closest grocery to our new home. My wife and I stopped in Sunday evening – around 7:30pm – for a few items. As we neared the front of the store we noticed that only a single check lane was open and it had seven customers in line all with overflowing carts. Since we had selected some frozen items, we felt we had to use the “U Check” stations to prevent our food from melting.

To say the experience was excruciating would be an extreme understatement. As my wife and I attempted to navigate the poorly designed checkout process we repeatedly had to call the clerk over to clear the screen, the scale, or otherwise “un-stick” the system. We were not the only customers having difficulties; several times we had to wait for help because the clerk was busy running (literally) from customer to customer helping clear their problems as well.

At one point I asked the clerk why more traditional check lines were not opened when lines were backed up, his response; “I don’t know about that, I just work the self check lines.” I asked if we could speak to a manager, but was told one was not available to help us.

After struggling with the byzantine user interface and tiny bagging area – which we finally learned is a giant scale to apparently thwart theft – we finished and were able to leave the store. However we were both upset and frustrated beyond belief. We couldn’t believe the poorly designed checkout experience and absolute apathy on the part of the store staff.

Kroger is the closest grocery to our new home, but because of shenanigans like this we’ll have to think long and hard as to whether or not we’ll continue to patronize your stores, or if we’ll go out of our way to shop at your competitor for a better experience.

My suggestion is to mothball the horribly designed U-Check stations and add a few more clerks to keep lines open. You may think you’re saving money by having less staff on the floor, but all you’re doing is pushing away good customers who hate dealing with your painful shopping experience.

The typical defense for a staffing reduction like this is it’s 7:30 on a Sunday night, and therefore having only one lane open makes sense. Sure, except that if the lane is backed up with 7 carts and the self check-out corral is full, then clearly one lane isn’t enough after all.

(Photo: RichieC)