Should There Be A Limit On Items At The Self-Checkout Line?

Self-checkout lanes have become a topic of debate in the retail world in recent years. Does it speed up the process and cut down on labor costs, or are they high-maintenance money pits that put people out of work? Are they intended to be used for small purchases of just a few items — or is it perfectly fine to get in line with a full week’s worth of groceries?

This is the question posed by Consumerist reader Shannon, who was just trying to pick up a few items for the weekend and thought that self-checkout would be the way to go… Until she ended up behind someone buying hundreds of dollars worth of stuff.

Some stores do put limits on how many items you can bring through self-checkout, often because the machines don’t have the counter space to hold more than a few bags of groceries.

But for those stores that don’t have specified limits, we want to know from you:


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bladerunner says:

    I refuse to answer the poll because I don’t see a my answer: That while there should not inherently be a limit to self-checkout, that it is often in the best interests of line speed to do a limit, but that is their prerogative and if they haven’t, there isn’t.

    If the sign doesn’t say “15 items or fewer”, then it doesn’t have a limit; Shannon should know that.

  2. consumerd says:

    I think extreme couponers should have to use “self checkout” . why clog the lines because you are buying 500 boxes of cereal.

    • Republicrat says:

      You’re still “clogging the lines” regardless of which checkout you are using in that situation.

      • RandomHookup says:

        Which is why the “pick a line and you’re stuck with it” approach in a store is the worst way to manage the flow of customers.

  3. ventu587 says:

    I really hate it when someone is at a self checkout with a full cart and every few seconds that ring up something that now needs support or they cannot figure out how to use it. I usually only use them when I am in a hurry but have started to find out that the cashiers have shorter lines and are quicker and more accurate than a lot of these self-checkouts.

    • pamelad says:

      The Albertsons store in my neighborhood got rid of the self checkout lanes, and I miss them. I used to get out of the store in a jiffy, and now I have to wait sometimes in long lines for cashier checkout.

      I was resentful of this change, and the best explanation I got from Albertsons was that they wanted to be more “customer friendly,” such as customers meeting their friendly cashiers (and they are usually nice), But I don’t want to socialize with the cashiers most of the time while purchasing a few items. I just want to get in and out of the store quickly.

      A local store manager also added that the space formerly taken up by the self checkout, near the store entrance, is very valuable space for impulse purchases. That’s where they now display decorative trinkets.

  4. Golfer Bob says:

    They are also not meant for people who are having their first exposure to computerized barcode scanning technology.

  5. yospiff says:

    The Wal-mart near my home got rid of the self checkout lanes a few months back. Too many problems and complaints.

  6. bobosims says:

    people can’t count anyway… it’s not like it would help.

  7. az123 says:

    Actually I suspect these will be completely gone in fad land soon enough. My sister works in a grocery chain that has eliminated them because they don’t really save them money and increased product loss. I also know a a few other chains that have dumped them out of stores.

    The comment I hear from every one is that for 80% of the customers it is great and faster but there is the 20% that have problems and the effort in dealing with those creates more work than just having cashiers check everyone out.

    • Rexy does not like the new system says:

      Must be a regional thing. Self checkouts have been around in my area for ~10 years and some places are expanding, not eliminating them,

    • Republicrat says:

      I think the next breakthrough in store checkout technology will be RFID tags. No need to scan anything except maybe your payment card. Walk up and walk out in 30 seconds.

      • Applekid says:

        In the Shadowrun RPG, it predicts exactly that in the future. You just load up your cart with what you want and push it out the door.

      • Shadowfire says:

        Microsoft was experimenting with this four years ago. I wish it would happen already… lots of benefits here. Customers get in and out faster, (hopefully) less theft, encouragement for customers to use their own bags…

      • DuckNCover says:

        At Stop and Shop you can get an electronic “gun” thing you bring through the store with you. You scan and bag every item as you select it. Then you stop on the way out to pay, usually at the self-check out. Not sure if you can do it at regular check out. Another option they also offer, which my roommate and I used once, is using your smart phone in the same way. We had to log into some site and scanned my shopper’s card then got our stuff. The plus was we got bigger discounts on some things. The minus was not everything scanned well and we could never manage to get it to work again.

        • RandomHookup says:

          You can use them at the regular checkouts (most have a little bar code mounted on the checkout line somewhere). You still need to scan coupons and, if you have a coupon for a free item, you’ll need the cashier to process it.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    There should be a limit, like maybe 25 items, and at the same time, the stores should make sure the stupid things work correctly. My local grocery store had awesome self checkout machines, but they “upgraded”. I used it once since the upgrade. It flagged my grapes as “needs assistance”. Same with yogurt. It wouldn’t allow me to buy bread for some reason (maybe my Mom was lurking nearby and somehow influenced the machine). I tried to buy about 20 small items, and the cashier had to come over and clear the errors for about 5 of the items. What a pain.

  9. Tegan says:

    Yes, there should be a limit. In an ideal world, people would know better than to clog up the entire self-checkout area while they try to make it through two carts overflowing with junk, making it so other customers have a hard time even getting to the surrounding self-checkouts. Unfortunately in reality, people are dumb jerks who do things like try to get two stuffed carts through the self-checkout just like the oblivious lady I saw at Kroger last night.

    Honestly though, it’s not like people really pay attention to item limits anyways. I was behind a lady in the “express” lane a couple weeks ago who easily had over 40 items and the cashier didn’t even say anything. Oh well.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Just playing devil’s advocate, I’ve actually had the express cashier flag me over to her line, even though I have many more than the 10 item limit. I always look around and ask her again, are you sure, I’ll wait, because I don’t want to be the target of comments from my fellow shoppers.

      • AzCatz07 says:

        I’ve had this happen and then got yelled at by the guy who entered the lane behind me. The cashier not-so-politely advised him that she was the one who called me over, and I wasn’t breaking the rules.

    • longfeltwant says:

      I was surprised that your opinion was the majority opinion.

      They’re not express lanes, they’re self-checkout lanes. The express lanes are clearly marked. I’ve never, ever thought of self-checkout as synonymous with express. I’ve seen self-checkout lanes that are express lanes, but if they aren’t marked, then they aren’t express lanes. If you want an express lane, select an express lane. If you want an express self-checkout lane, then ask your grocer to designate a self-checkout lane as an express lane.

      • Bor&Mitch says:

        Self checkout is not marked as express but they’re clearly not designed for a full load of shopping, especially if you don’t bring along someone to bag while you’re scanning. We shouldn’t need signs asking people to be courteous and use common sense.

        • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

          At the grocery store we frequent the most, there are two lanes with two small self-checkout stations per lane, each with a small bagging area, and then two lanes with one station and a regular conveyor belt, where often one customer scans and their family member bags at the same time. IMO a cart-full would be somewhat obnoxious at the smaller stations, but the single station lanes with belts are made for larger self-checkout loads. I think it really depends on the circumstances, but I generally prefer to use self-checkout when I only have less than one bag’s worth…I actually use it most often when I need just one or two items that can’t wait for the next big trip.

  10. Rexy does not like the new system says:

    How about this: the skill of the shopper says how many items they can bring to the self checkout. Thus, the grandpas and grandmas who don’t like this newfangled technology have a limit of 5 items while the people who know how to actually use the machine can bring more items.

    • ARP3 says:

      No, because 3/4 of the people will thing they’re experts, but aren’t. I think they piloted this program with airport security lines and everyone used the expert line either thinking its the fastest or to avoid being embarrassed that they’re a noob.

      • Rexy does not like the new system says:

        So you make them take a test first. Then they’ll given a card that displays their checkout abilities and how many items they can take.

        Quite frankly, as long as there’s an option to let me avoid people, I don’t care what it is as long as it works.

  11. Goatshadow says:

    I’ve never seen someone try to drag a full cart through… they’d rather let the checkout person do all the work. That said, there’s just not enough room on the bagging shelf to do a full cart of items at the self-checkouts around here. You get 2 or 3 bag-holders and maybe 5 inches of space around them, and you can’t take things off or it will complain and stop. Unless I’m doing it wrong.

    • formatc says:

      At the grocery store where I used to work, you placed each item onto a conveyor belt after scanning it, and it would verify the weight of each item individually. There was a large bagging area at the end of the conveyor. More room than a normal register in terms of workspace, and it was very easy and convenient to scan an entire cart’s worth of groceries like in the OP’s picture. It was designed to do that. I don’t know why more grocery stores don’t use that design.

  12. stephent says:

    The local chain here has self check out lines with and w/out item limits. Works well this way.

    • Tegan says:

      That’s actually a pretty good solution, especially if the ones without limits have enough clearance from the ones with limits that people dragging tons of stuff through don’t clog up the whole area.

  13. Sleestak says:

    To begin, most express checkout lanes are also for the disabled. One could argue anyone rude or stupid enough to go through an express lane with a full cart is handicapped in one way or another.

    But mostly in my experience asking a customer to take their order to another register could get you fired when they call in to corporate offices, in a rage, to complain of how rude the cashier was. Customers know this and often use it to their advantage. If you say something to the offending customer you get in trouble, if you don’t the angry customers behind that person call in because you didn’t do anything. It isn’t worth the reprisals.

  14. Hi_Hello says:

    some design can handle a lot of items.

    some store, have it so 1 line leads to multiple checkout machine so you are not stuck behind 1 person.

  15. Sunshine1970 says:

    Self-checkout should be for about 20 items or less. I’ve seen, on multiple occasions, and it drives me nuts:

    1. A customer who uses the self-checkout but doesn’t know how to use it and asks the one clerk who mans all the self-checkouts to check her out and when one of the other customers need her to clear something we’re all waiting for the checker to get done with the one customer who should have never been there to begin with.
    2. A mother with young kids, an overflowing cart, the kids running around, she not knowing how to really use the self-checkout system, takes forever to go through each item. Then asking the sole clerk for all the self-checkouts about prices, what she should do for this item, that item…coupons, etc.

  16. eccsame says:

    I bet reader Shannon’s time is important.

  17. oldman says:

    Instead of a maximum number of items, I would prefer a minimum IQ level.

    I have seen people scan, and check out a full cart without trouble, and I have seen 10 item checkout take 10+ minutes.

    (I dare say, checkout time is usually inversely proportional to IQ)

  18. XTREME TOW says:

    I voted “No, they’re for anyone to use”. Because that’s what they are for! No limit signs, no issue.
    @ Republicrat: The technology exists in the UK. Americans will propably be the last to figure out how the damn things work.
    I personally don’t use the self-checkouts, no matter how small the purchase. When a ‘helpful associate’ tells me there is an open lane at the self check-out, I tell them: “If the store want my money, they will have to pay a human being to wait on me.” Capitalism is good for children and other living things!

  19. Mark702 says:

    The self checkouts suck. Part of the cost of groceries are tied into the cost to pay for cashiers who do the labor of doing the checkout and bagging process. Here in Oregon we also have places like Food 4 Less and Winco that are easily 20% cheaper because you have to bag your own groceries but still have a checker.

    I do occasionally use self checkout for only a few items or medical supplies I’d prefer to do myself. But other than the few rare times I’ve used self checkout, I avoid it. If people are doing the work themselves, both checking and bagging, I expect to be given a 5-10% discount on my bill.

    Same is true of pumping gas, here in Oregon and NJ we provide minimum wage jobs to teens in a harsh enconomy and yet our gas isn’t more expensive than other states. That way I get the convience of staying in the car when it’s really hot, freezing cold, raining, no gas smell on my hands, no chance of getting my clean clothes dirty, or anything like that. What’s next? Will I be paying full price to stock the grocery store shelves? Paying to make my own food at one of those “experience” restaurants? Will I have to operate the popcorn machine at the theater to pay $4 for 25 cents worth of popcorn?

    • longfeltwant says:

      Yeah, the baggers isn’t the reason those stores are less expensive. There are other reasons accounting for much more of the savings.

  20. SirWired says:

    But WHY would you want to check out that much stuff with self-checkout? On a per-item basis, it’s WAY slower to use those things.

    put item away
    *attempt to scan*
    wait for the damn thing to realize you’ve already bagged the last item

    I only use them when the line for live chekers means it would actually save time.

    • Golfer Bob says:

      You forgot:

      *rotate* and thoroughly examine every square inch of the product
      *search* again for another bar code that somehow will work
      *examine* again
      *realize* there is only one bar code
      “slowly” pass bar code over scanner in every conceivable orientation
      *notice* ingredient label
      *OMG* did I actually pick up mayo with trans fat
      *run* back to shelf and get light trans fat free mayo

  21. Jacquilynne says:

    Every store near me that has self-checkouts has a combination of ones with just a couple of weigh scales for small orders and ones with larger carousels of weigh scales for larger orders. No inherent limit to the self-checkout, just a division between large and small orders.

  22. apasserby says:

    In the county where I reside they change 5 cents for a bag. Many grocery stores don’t provide bags at self checkout which means that only those with very few items use self checkout.

    Frankly I like the self-checkout because so often customers fail to retrieve their change. I’ll pull the money out and place it on the side. When I finish and they didn’t come back, it’s in my pocket.
    Not talking about a few coins but 1s,5s,10s and the occasional 20. This could be a subject for another poll.

    • apasserby says:

      In the county where I reside they charge 5 cents for a bag if you don’t bring your own.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      I remember a while back there was an article on here about pennies and I was confounded by the fact that some people refuse to touch them. Some people even purposely throw them on the ground. Hell, some people refuse too take even silver change. I think a lot of it was men who don’t like the jingly metal in their pockets. But they’re potentially losing hundreds of dollars a year by not taking their change… if they use cash on a relative regular basis.

  23. Not Given says:

    I don’t know what they are intended for, there are no signs with an item limit. I have taken a full cart through. I go get an empty cart, pull stuff out of the full one to scan and bag, then I put the full bags in the empty cart. That seems to help. If I have cases of cat food or something that you have to scan individually I go to a manned checkout, they can enter the number of cans and just scan one of each kind.

    • Professor59 says:

      You are exactly the person that screws up the the self checkout lanes for everyone else. There is no room for multiple carts (or kids, or significant others, or anything) in these multi station checkouts. No one can get past you. No one can see beyond you to see a free station.

      And get the hell off the phone!

      • Not Given says:

        There is plenty of room for the extra cart and for people to go around me and only rarely is someone waiting for me. Now, I usually only do half carts or less because I think it takes longer except when the lines are jammed up at the cashiers and the self checkout lanes are empty. It seems like they are almost always one half to 3/4 in use and no lines.

  24. Saskiatas says:

    Unless otherwise indicated, I would not assume that a self-checkout lane is considered an express lane with an item limit. They are two different things. I absolutely hate the way most cashiers bag my items and much prefer to do it myself. Our store has both self-checkout lanes with a 12 item limit, and self-checkout lanes with no limit. If I have more than 12 items, I will use the no-limit lanes. These lanes also have a bar that you can put up while bagging, so that people behind you can begin ringing up their order while you are still bagging yours.

    • scantron says:

      This! Why are people making up a rule that I’ve never seen in my life! Both of the self checkout lanes at my grocery store have full size conveyor belts and bag areas. I check us out, my boyfriend bags, this is faster for us than waiting behind two carts filled with families.

  25. Jawaka says:

    In a perfect work they should really only be used for people with a few items but unfortunately many grocery stores *coughStop&Shopcough* only seem to have two registers open at a time which results in lines 4-5 people long. When this happens I’m sorry but I’m going to use the self service line. Don’t blame me,, blame Stop & Shop. I’d much rather go through a normal line but I’m not going to wait 20 minutes to do so.

  26. StarGeek says:

    People hate me when I use these things for a different reason. I always dump all my loose change into these things. Sometimes it takes a bit to get rid of it all.

  27. framitz says:

    No, the ones I’ve seen were not used much. Common sense and consideration for others apply.

  28. Applekid says:

    If you have more than 5 items, don’t use it if you’re alone. I can handle seeing a full cart of stuff and a nice chain of operation where one scans and another bags, but I gotta hold back my fury of a thousand suns when I see some jerk scanning and pushing everything along and then holding up the people behind him bagging his stuff after he paid.

    • flychinook says:

      I’m that jerk, and I’ll tell you why:
      Whenever I try to bag each item after scanning, the bag platform/scale takes FOREVER to re-calibrate and allow me to continue scanning. So yes, I simply put the items directly onto the platform after scanning, then bag them all up afterwards. It looks slower, but 10 seconds of bagging is quicker than a 3-5 second delay after each item.

  29. cspschofield says:

    I think that the limit should be what you can reasonably expect to get into the number of bags that can be filled on the bagging area. In my experience this ranges from two to six.

  30. flychinook says:

    Better option: Do away with self-checkout lines. They’re useless, slow, frustrating, and, generally speaking, pure rubbish. At my local grocery store, less than half of them are open at any given time, and they still need an employee to “oversee” the 2 or 3 that are open. A single express line could process customers just as quickly.

    • HomerSimpson says:

      And when they get rid of the self checkout lanes, that’s what you’ll have…a *single* express lane (and likely nothing else).

      Have fun camping out at the store!

    • Rexy does not like the new system says:

      So don’t use them. But leave them there for the people that know how to use them. It also saves me from chatty cashiers.

      • flychinook says:

        It’s not a matter of “knowing how to use them”, they’re inherently slow by design, due to the need to weigh each and every item after it is scanned. Yes, there are plenty of people who slow it down even more because they don’t know how it works, but even the most knowledgeable person can’t use one quickly for more than one or two items.

        It’s like Mario Andretti competing in an F1 race on a segway. Driver skill is not the limiting factor.

        So, just like you suggested, I don’t use them. I go to a regular check out lane, behind the mom with kids and her cart full of groceries. I chat casually with the checkout person. And on the way to the door, I notice all the people in the self-checkout lanes who were there when I passed by them the first time.

        • Rexy does not like the new system says:

          Then maybe it’s a matter of design, but I can get all of my items scanned and paid for faster than someone using a checkout line (when item numbers are about equal). To each his own though.

          • Coleoptera Girl says:

            It honestly depends on the cashier. I scan and bag stuff at lightning speed and with decent organizational skills when I’m manning a register. However, I do avoid certain cashiers at my store when I’m buying something. I even have a preferred cashier or two…

  31. lyontaymer30 says:

    I don’t think there should be a limit. But I feel that should be up to the company and how they deal with things. I personally like it and I rarely get more than 15 things at a time anyway. I have seen people load up with 50 items before, but we have several lanes so it’s not like they’re holding everybody up

  32. skydvr7 says:

    I love to go to the store when it is not busy and at night our local stores only have self service. I have had to request a checker open a lane. They have advised that they will not open lanes until 8am. Since they don’t offer a discount on my groceries if I’m getting alot they should check me out. The self serve doesn’t have enough room and will not allow me to move cheked items off.

  33. bob6069 says:

    F in A there should be a limit and there should also be an intelligence test also!!! I always get stuck behind the dipwad that has no freakin idea how to use the damn machine, or they have their stupid kids with them and let think the checkout is the local playground..

  34. blogger X says:

    Look at your cart/basket. If you cannot fit all of your items in the (usually) three bagging stands they have there, no, do not use the self-checkout. Please proceed to the regular checkouts.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      It all depends on the person. 99% of customers will be slower than most cashiers.
      They should never use self checkout for more than a couple of items.

      I am faster than every cashier out there. (I used to work at walgreens for years and I have a brain).
      I have gone to safeway with a cart full about 10 bags of things. All the cashiers have long lines and self checkout is empty.
      I can still get through the self checkout with all of those items before any cashier can finish with one customer. I can checkout those 50+ items and pay in less time it takes for many people to do 5.

    • spamtasticus says:

      Three bagging stands? What is that? The stores I shop at have large conveyor belts. Furthermore, what difference does it make to you or anyone else if the guy in front of you has 100 items or if there are 3 people in front of you with 33 items each? Maybe, what people walking up to the checkout lines should do is look at the number of items in a line instead of the number of shoppers.

  35. classicxl2 says:

    there is no such thing as common sense in the real world anymore

  36. psikic says:

    I remember a couple of years back buying a couple hundred dollars of groceries on a weeknight really late at Kroger and they had no checkout lanes going except for the self-checkout lanes. Only one employee was manning the front, and he was the self-checkout lane attendant. I had no choice but to spend half an hour scanning each item and loading them into a new cart, getting overrides for half the items the machine’s scale wouldn’t register, and waiting while the attendant tried to figure out how to redeem coupons at the self-checkout. I like these things when I have a few items, but I don’t want to be FORCED to use them, especially if I have a large order.

    • Mark702 says:

      In that situation, I’d tell the dumb employee to ring up my items. If he didn’t, I’d simply walk out of the store, leaving the cart full of groceries. If they don’t want to check & bag the items, I won’t shop there.

      • Weekilter says:

        I’ve left items on the floor and walked out when they don’t have enough free self-check stands open.

        • Chuft-Captain says:

          Really you’ve punished the store employees for not magically opening more lines during a sudden, brief customer rush?

          Bad consumer.

      • RandomHookup says:

        There is a sunk cost to this as you’ve just spent a good amount of time shopping.

        • ReverendTed says:

          There’s sunk cost of the current shopping, and travel to a new location (perhaps a store the shopper isn’t familiar with), but there are a couple of mitigating factors:
          Pride and principle. We’ll shoot ourselves in the foot to prove a point on principle. Pridefulness is a dangerous thing.
          Also, and this one is critical: “It’s Different When You’re On The Internet.” It’s easy to walk away from a cartful of groceries, or confront an employee, or drive squatters out of your house at gunpoint if you’re not ACTUALLY there.

    • elangomatt says:

      My local Kroger still does this and I’m mildly annoyed at it. I think the last regular checkout closes at either 10pm or 11pm, which really isn’t all that late in my mind. At least 2 of the 6 self checkouts have 6 bagging stations on a spinning carosel instead of the normal 2 bagging stations that the other 4 self checkouts have.

    • semidazed says:

      When I was working a third shift, I often had the same trouble. If I hadn’t needed groceries, I’d have left. It was a massive ordeal with no ideal solution- Grocery only wants to pay one clerk for 6 stations. On the bright side, I was able to purchase wine while underage… probably not a boon to the store (or their ABC permits) but I was appreciative that the clerk was too overwhelmed to check ID’s when a mass influx of customers meant he was constantly having to override to UScan. I’m sure they were just grateful I wasn’t an undercover cop.

    • Veeber says:

      At Home Depot the attendant can ring you up from their register as well, so that saves on some of the weird, awkward items, plus if it’s something really big they can just scan it for you in the cart.

  37. CappyCobra says:

    Change self-checkout -> Handbasket lane. You’re welcome ‘merica

    • flychinook says:

      I like that idea. It might actually get people to use the handbaskets, and at the same time provide me entertainment as people try to cram an entire month’s worth of groceries into one to try to sneak through the express lanes.

      But then again, this is ‘murrica. I’m honestly surprised the shopping carts haven’t all been replaced with 4wd mobility scooters by now.

      • ReverendLoki says:

        Where do those mini/short/express carts fit in though? Kosher in self check out or no?

        • AzCatz07 says:

          Those are rare around my neck of the woods. I’ve only seen them at one store. Anyway, I’d consider them okay.

      • jumbojeepman says:

        What about a couple of large/heavy items you don’t feel like carrying through the store, like 4 1 gallon containers of a beverage? As to the mini carts, well they are a couple of inches too short for me, being a tall guy I have to lean over to use them, so I don’t. I just get a full size cart.

        My favorite, though is a local Harris Teeter. No matter what you decide to use (self scan or cashier) they want you to do the other. Normally they offer to do the self-scan for you if there are a bunch of people in line for the cashier, but 2 nights ago I tried to use the self-scan for 2 items and the cashier called me over. At the prices this store charges, they definitely shouldn’t be any self-scanning.

    • Weekilter says:

      Why am I in this handbasket and where are we going?

    • PaulR says:

      Dang! That’s what I came here to say.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      Also, remove the plastic and paper bags and require people to bring their own.

      This has the double wammy of ending pollution-causing (both in production and disposal) bags, encourages reuse (of self-provided bags) and puts the hurt locker on the schlubs who try to run 50 items through.

      Also, how about knocking off 1-5% of the bill in exchange for using fewer employees and eliminating the bag expense?

      • darcmosch says:

        Or have it so that you have to pay for all bags, including plastic bags.

      • ReverendTed says:

        Here in Austin, we’re following the example of a few other cities that have done exactly that. They’re about to start charging a small fee for any disposable bags to encourage folks to use reusable shopping bags (which many of us have been using for quite a while now).

      • Professor59 says:

        Good luck with that crusade.

  38. xerotope says:

    They have self-checkout lanes with a conveyor that are more than capable of handling a full cart of groceries. They use machine-vision to inspect the item on the cart, rather than a scale.

    Really, as long as all your stuff fits on the scale, I say it’s fair game. You’re still getting a four or six times multiplier on number of lanes per store staff.

    • Emperor Norton I says:

      Meijer has these.

    • SilentAgenger says:

      Costco has these. Trouble is, you have be quick getting the item from the scanner to the belt, because if machine vision doesn’t recognize something right away it’ll cancel the item and make you rescan it…and if you have a large number of items you need to make sure you stagger their positions as they run down the belt so they won’t logjam at the end (then it cancels your last scanned item and you can’t scan anything else until you make room for new items)…lastly, once you’re done paying you have to be quick loading your items onto the cart because 90% of the the time the customer behind you prematurely begins their transaction and starts running their items down the belt while you’re busy trying to collect yours (this one drives me crazy!).

    • JEDIDIAH says:

      This. If the self-checkout lane is clearly not designed for the volume of stuff you have then you should stop being an inconsiderate jerk and go to a register. Most self-checkout stations are clearly designed as express checkouts.

      Unless the self-checkout looks like a conventional checkout with a belt and everything, you should not try to use it for your stocking-up-for-armageddon shopping trips.

      However, the real pain point here is COMPETENCE. Some people simply don’t know what they’re doing well enough to use the self-checkout. They should leave it to a profesional and let the rest of us flee the premises as fast as possible.

      • regis-s says:

        Lol!! That pretty much sums up position. Someone that knows what they’re doing can probably scan 20 items faster than I can do 5.

        I guess I should really try learning to use the self checkout when there isn’t a line up.

        • darcmosch says:

          Having worked in plenty of store check out lanes, I am pretty adept at scanning. The only problem is the age restricted.

      • RandomHookup says:

        I see very few self-checkouts labeled as express lanes.

        Competence is an interesting point, but how will people gain competence if they don’t get practice?

        I prefer the scan-as-you-go gun that Giant/Stop & Shop offer.

  39. SBR249 says:

    Depends on the size of the self checkout lane. I’ve seen full sized ones with conveyor belts that can easily handle a whole cartful. But usually the stores only have half sized mini stations. But even with mini stations, sometimes you are allowed to put your bagged items back into your cart after the machine registers them so really, if you can stuff everything into a cart it’s fair game.

    However, I draw the line that stuff that do not have barcodes like produce by the pound or piece. Having to weigh it and pick the right PLU code, etc etc is not meant to be done by the average shopper who can’t tell the difference between hothouse, vine, and beefsteak tomatoes. If the store has weigh station that print barcode labels in the produce section and make their use mandatory, then fine. But if you have to do that stuff at checkout and need to ask an attendant’s help, then it’s no go.

    • ReverendLoki says:

      I wouldn’t call that a hard and fast rule. For example, local grocery I’ll pick up a few bagels and go through the self checkout. Hit the produce button, the B, where there are two bagel options (piece or dozen), select piece, select 3 (or whatever), you’re done in 5-10 seconds. Same goes with bananas (your only options are regular, organic and plantain anyways) and apples (I know damn well if I picked up fuji or granny smith today). Anything more complex – well, MAYBE if there’s noone in line.

    • Not Given says:

      PLU codes are not rocket science and most things I’ve seen has a tag or a sticker with the correct code on it. At Walmart, you can also type in the veggie type and it gives you a choice and you pick one.

  40. ReverendLoki says:

    Consider not only how much you have, but your ability to use the machine. I can get a pretty good pace going through those, and could check out with a bit over a basket full, maybe two, in no time. Any more than that, I’d want to go to a full service checkout.

    The there’s the guy you get stuck behind who takes 5 minutes finding how you scan in an apple…

    • Anne Noise says:

      This. Scan as much as you want, bag as much as you want, just use some common sense and try to be efficient. I don’t mind waiting being people with large amounts of stuff, but I HATE waiting behind people who don’t know how to efficiently use the self-checkout, clogging up the line with something that should take seconds. The self-checkout isn’t for you people who don’t know how to do it, it’s for those of us who DO.

  41. Coleoptera Girl says:

    Nope. The limit on express lanes should be enforced, though. If you hit the limit, the register should automatically total up your purchase of 10/15/20/etc. items and force you to pay before you can continue your purchasing.

    • DuckNCover says:

      This kind of still makes the people behind you suffer, though. I think the cashier needs to have the bits to tell people they have too much stuff. We have one store that has signs saying something like, “10 items or less (11 pr 12 is OK too).” But then where do you draw the line? If a couple more than 10 is OK then what’s wrong with a couple more than 12? And so on?

      • zippy says:

        One of the stores near me has a sign that says, “About 15 items” on the express lanes. I have no idea if they have people abusing that.

        Another store has a couple of full size self checkouts with a conveyor belt. No problem unloading a full cart here, however, if you are alone, you will end up holding up the next person while you bag everything at the end.

        It also has four mini-self checkouts, with enough space for four bags. Another store crams six mini-self checkouts into about the same space, with space for only two bags. They both have a sign at the mini’s saying 15 items or less, even though the one has twice the space for bagging as the other.

      • Anne Noise says:

        If the sign says “11 or 12 is okay too,” I draw the line at 12, clearly.

  42. youbastid says:

    How about “Yes, because I’m buying groceries at a store that employs people and I shouldn’t be doing the work.” I find these things to be insulting. And it should be insulting to the cashiers too, as it clearly implies that they are totally worthless. Are we going to be putting up sale tags and stocking the shelves next?

    It’s one thing when the lines are huge and I have two things to buy, but if I’m buying a significant amount of groceries, I sure as hell won’t be the one bagging it all. That’s paying for the privilege of doing someone else’s job.

    • jumbojeepman says:

      Here, here!

    • Weekilter says:

      Then you sound like a candidate for the full-service checkout line and that’s what you should use. You’re not going to change the store.

    • lobsterssss says:

      Not trying to insult anyone, but a lot of cashiers ARE worthless. Like I said in my other post, I can ring up a cart full of groceries a lot faster than some kid or gabbermouth when all I have to interact with is a computer.

      I find it funny when someone who works there full time has to constantly look up item codes for barcode-less items, yet I can zip right through the process in half the time at a self check out.

    • Anne Noise says:

      If you don’t want to bag your own groceries, don’t; continue to use the existing system. I’ve only been in one grocery store, once, that had self-checkout but not a normal checkout line. Why are you getting “insulted” by something that doesn’t effect you in the slightest?

      Also, God for-fucking-bid you lift a finger to help the employees do their job! It’s their job to bag things, not yours, you are clearly above that bullshit!

      • RayanneGraff says:

        Why are you getting “insulted” by something that doesn’t effect you in the slightest?

        Because he’s a snob who gets a kick out of bitching over perceived slights. Manual labor is for the proles, don’t you know?

      • DaveInBillsburg says:

        Also, God for-fucking-bid you lift a finger to help the employees do their job! It’s their job to bag things, not yours, you are clearly above that bullshit!

        We have a person that come and empties the trash in our cubicles in our building during the day, she is paid by the hour, a bunch of people would get up and bring their trash to her and dump it into her large receptical. After a while she told everyone she would get everyones trash. She did this bacasue she got paid by the hour, when people were emptying their own trash she finished her work earlier and her boss told her to go sign out and go home, which cost her money. So sometimes helping out people with their job can have a negative effect on them.

        • msbaskx2 says:

          There’s a flip side to that, isn’t there? Clearly this person has a job that isn’t necessary. If everyone can just dump their trash themselves, why employ another person whose job it is to do just that?

  43. ancientone567 says:

    I was in BJS the other day and the line for the 1 live person was 10 carts long so I did a months worth of groceries in the self check out lol. Honey badger don’t care!

  44. NephriteStars says:

    we only have one store here that has them…no one uses them!

  45. Rob says:

    The supermarket I frequent supplies hand held self scanners that shoppers use to scan their items as they put them into their carts. Those shoppers also use their own cloth bags. When they get up to the self checkout, the total is transferred from the self scanner to the checkout, they pay and they are on their way with their full cart of groceries. I usually get behind a self scanner user since they are quickly through.

    • jeepguy57 says:


      My local stop & shop has this and I love it. I can bag the groceries as I go, as I like, in my own cloth bags and then quickly check out at any register I want – manned or not.

      Plus, I like being able to see my total as I shop.

      • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

        I tried it once at our local Giant (which I think is a regional variation of Stop ‘n Shop), and the stupid thing kept beeping at me with “special offers”.

        F— that noise. I haven’t picked up one of those self-scanners again, even though I love the idea in theory.

        • Christopher Wilson says:

          The ‘special offers’ are additional savings off items for using the hand scanners. It doesnt get in the way of scanning, so I don’t see a problem. People bitch because they dont get money off for ringing their own stuff, then bitch when they do.

          • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

            I don’t want lower prices for using the self-checkout or the scanner, I just want them to let me buy what I want without them showing me ads or pestering me. If I scanned Pepsi and they offered me a coupon for Coke, that might be helpful, but it was constantly beeping with certain coupons that had nothing to do with anything on my list. I might try it again eventually, but only if I can silence it.

    • HomerSimpson says:

      Those are fun to deal with when the freeze or even reboot themselves (have had both happen)

  46. frodolives35 says:

    Cementer’s I have missed you. Self check out is a pain. Every time I try to use one it requires a clerk anyway.I like chef Ramsey say Shut it down.

  47. Weekilter says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone self-scan more than a few items. Self-scan is much more convenient and I think faster than either the express checkout or the full-service checkout.

  48. cmoralis says:

    I would think the bagging area would solve this issue, it is only about three by three feet. Yet somehow, people still try to fit two grocery carts full on it, they take forever and defeat the purpose of having self checkout to begin with.

  49. kittyvillage says:

    I use the slef-checkout at Kroger regardless of how many items I buy, because the employees who bag the groceries are kids (mostly boys) without a clue as to how to pack a grocery bag. I bring my own, and apparently the concept of packing cold items in the insulated bags and putting the bread on top is rocket science.

    No item limits are specified on the self-checkout lanes, and I want the food I spent good money on to arrive home unmelted and unsquished, so I’m sorry, I do not care if I take my time in the self-checkout lane. Kroger has six of them that are rarely fully occupied, plus a quick checkout lane limited to 15 items that’s usually open.

  50. Bor&Mitch says:

    A full cart of groceries in self checkout doesn’t bug me as long as there are two people – one to scan and one to bag. It’s the people with a full cart that come alone that annoy me. And if you have a boat load a questionable coupons, you’re purchasing alcohol, or anything else that requires store intervention, then use a human checkout lane.

  51. poehitman says:

    In my experience with self-checkouts, they are good for small orders (20 items or less) ONLY. It annoys the hell out of me when someone pulls in with an overflowing cart full of 125 items. They aren’t built for that kind of order. In my experience, they can also be a royal pain with coupons and price matching. Any price matching and you need an employee anyways. It’s quicker to just to go to a manned lane.

  52. kathygnome says:

    Our local shop has two separate self-checkout areas. One uses a scale to check items and has two bag spots and is obviously meant for an express low item count checkout. The other is a full size checkout that checks the items with some kind of scanner on the conveyor and has a full size bagging area, suitable for a full cart. Both also accept the devices that scan items as you put them into your cart, so it’s not uncommon to see someone with a full cart of groceries that have been pre-scanned use the express aisle and breeze through quickly.

  53. lobsterssss says:

    I only use self check out lanes now. I’ve found that they are mostly empty whenever I go to the store, and when other people are using them they usually have lots of problems (scanning the barcodes, ringing up stuff like produce with no barcode, etc). The store I go to has something like 25 lines but only ever has 5 or so of them staffed at one time – which means there are LONG lines and waits. Not to mention the people behind the register are mostly teens or people who want to strike up conversation and slow down the whole process. I’ve had some people take upwards of thirty seconds to scan and bag one item because they were trying to talk to me or the bagger.

    I learned a long time ago that I could take an entire cart full of my weeks worth of food to a self check out and be done MUCH quicker than a regular check out lane. Once you get the hang of it, there is no reason you should be ‘holding anyone up’. If someone behind you is in a hurry, then they can go to a limited item checkout lane.

  54. Pienoceros says:

    I’ve seen people with just a couple of items hold up the self check-out for ridiculously long times because they don’t know what they’re doing. I would rather be in there with someone that has a cart full of groceries but knows how to use the check out, than with people who literally stand there staring blankly at the screen. Common sense should prevail though, if the store is slow, I’ll take all my groceries through self-checkout, but if it’s busy I’ll go to a cashier.

  55. JJFIII says:

    I really dont care how many items there are, I care that the person operating it knows what the hell they are doing. I hate when the 90 year old comes up and can’t figure it out, or the mom who thinks allowing her 5 year old to play cashier will be a learning experience or cute. It is not cute while we are waiting behind you

    • RayanneGraff says:

      This is the only issue I have as well. The self-checkouts aren’t toys, do not let your kids press all the buttons & cause the machine to lock up, and if you have no idea how to work it, just go to a regular checkout. I hate getting stuck behind some technophobe with a cartful of produce -__-

  56. poehitman says:

    It’s also dependent on the machine itself. The one’s at Wal-Mart were HORRIBLE. After you try to scan the damn item, it refuses to go onto the next item until you put the item in the bag and it takes a few seconds to weigh the item and compare it to the weight recorded in the database. That REALLY slows things down. There’s a button on the screen where you can skip bagging it, but it you can only use it so many times before the register locks up and you have to get an employee to unlock it. Then coupons are a real pain in the butt. Scanning them is normally fine, but the little slot you put the coupon in once it’s scanned doesn’t always pick up the coupon being deposited. And it won’t record the coupon until the register detects the coupon being deposited. So then you have to get a piece of paper or something and push it back as far as you can in the slot and wiggle it back and forth to try and make the detector trip.

    Can you tell I hate those damn machines? And I agree with the poster who complains about old farts not knowing how to use it. If you can’t figure it out quickly, then go to a regular manned register and stop holding up everyone behind you. Same for the person in the overflowing cart.

    • Christopher Wilson says:

      Just blow into the coupon slot. Unless its really full this usually gets it in there enough to register it being inserted.

      • RandomHookup says:

        Depends on where the slot is located. One is about hip level and I’m not getting on my knees to blow into that. The best approach is to stick the fake pen for signing the debit card pad, but it doesn’t always reach.

  57. Black Knight Rebel says:

    Damn straight there should be a limit.

    Those things are super slow because they have to be able to teach newbies how to use them on the fly. If you have more than 12 things in your cart, kindly haul your ass to the back of the normal line because that’ll probably be faster than waiting for the robot voice to guide you through a $250 grocery trip.

    • HomerSimpson says:

      Um, no…they’re “super slow” because they have to (try to) keep people from walking off with half of the store without paying for it.

      • RandomHookup says:

        I believe some stores had to discontinue them because they weren’t keeping their costs down and they were ripped off by walkouts and fake coupons.

  58. octavemeow says:

    I prefer the mini carts. I just feel too girly skipping around the grocery store with a hand-basket….even when i’m not skipping. To the question though, have some common courtesy for other shoppers and use self-check when you are within the posted limit.

  59. Tailypo says:

    The Kroger manager keeps trying to make me use self-check out. I don’t want to. I’m perfectly happy reading a magazine while waiting in line. I’m tired. I already have a full-time job and don’t want to do yours. Leave me alone, Kroger!

  60. AngryK9 says:


  61. Press1forDialTone says:

    Things you should have learned in kindergarten:

    1) Don’t use the self-checkout. The software that runs them is AWFUL and they
    screw up constantly in any store that uses them. When they do and they will,
    you will have to wait for a clerk to reboot the craptech and then rescan all
    your stuff and by that time you will have used double the time it would have
    taken for you to check out in line.

    2) Don’t go to a limited-item line if you have more than the limit. Period. If you
    do your are a douchebag (a full one) and I will likely report you to the office and
    then confront you if needed, nicely of course and then if needed no so nice.
    I got applause from the other people in the limited-item line when I did this
    one day. The perp left.

    3) If common sense tells you that 7 people waiting each of 3 full-basket lines is
    stupid and the store has 8 checkouts, stomp over to the office and in a voice
    slightly louder than needed, ask that they open another line and get your butt
    into it. If they won’t ask to shout at the manager. If they won’t budge, go over to
    the lines and yell: “How many of your fine folks waiting would like the management
    to open up a new check-out so you can move on with your day?” I tried this too,
    and everyone waiting raised their hands I kid you not, and the office opened up
    a new checkout.

  62. MikeVx says:

    My local Meijers has two varieties of self-scan, the express 12-or-fewer and the full-station-with-no-cashier variety. I will sometimes go a few items over on the express if the items are small scan-and-drop-in-a-bag size, beyond that, the larger stations get used.

    The larger stations deal with the customer overlap by having a panel you can swing into position to block further items from entering the bagging space, the people behind you can start in while you bag. When you’re done, swing the panel out of the way and leave.

  63. NanoDog says:

    BigY in Connecticut just eliminated those lines… interesting…

    I use them when I don’t have a lot of produce because I’m faster than the checkout folks!

  64. djDef says:

    Some sort of common sense should apply. Maybe pictures for those of us who have trouble with common sense.

  65. Abradax says:

    Item limit? No.
    Time limit? Eff yes.

  66. human_shield says:

    YES! Simply because the technology isn’t there yet where this is a simple and quick way of checking out. If you have a few items, its easy. Otherwise, you are spending ungodly amounts of time waiting for an “attendance to assist you”, or trying to scan an item on the tray that just seems a lot less reliable than the ones in the regular lanes.

  67. fizil says:

    put all the lines in parallel. Having individual lines/queues means you have to play a twisted sick lotto to choose the right line. I always am damned at this and choose wrong. Turning the lines from serial to parallel, all the lines wait for you vs pick one and stick with it. That’s how fry’s and TJ max do their lines.

  68. kathygnome says:


    I live in a predominantly elderly area and choosing which aisle to get into is usually an analysis not so much of the length of the line, but who’s in it, and given that many of the workers are elderly as well, in a staffed line, who’s running it and bagging.

  69. Revanche says:

    A “I don’t know” would be a valid option here. It could be indicative of how people view the issue.

  70. Save1Star says:

    I always go to self checkout, even with many groceries (though I only buy for me and my cat, so a week of groceries for me is not the same as a family of four). I know how to use the self check-out machine and find it’s usually just as fast or faster than having someone ring me up (plus I can bag my own groceries, which means I waste less plastic bags and don’t get my bread squished). If the self check-out machines confuse you (as they do many a shopper), please get out of the way and let the rest of us use them!

  71. Astranger says:

    The grocery store we use has limited items self-checkout and unlimited items self-checkout…. so why not have both?

  72. Jimmy37 says:

    I would have voted for stores NOT putting in strict limits, but we all know that common sense isn’t, and people aren’t courteous. And it’s particularly annoying when people don’t know how to use the self-serve line.

    I also think that bagging for yourself is the stupidest thing. While you are standing there, scanning your stuff, it accumulates at the bottom of belt. Pretty soon, it backs up onto the belt and you have to push everything down. Then, when you are finally done, the person behind you has to wait for you to be mostly bagged before they can start. But if they are really courteous, they’ll start scanning their stuff, and have it mix up with yours.

  73. Gamma1099 says:

    When there are employees working the registers that can check me out faster than I can, then I’ll use the regular lanes. Until then, stay out of my way and let me get this done.

  74. LtSiver says:

    As a technician who repairs these for Fujitsu, I will say a few things, but I do not represent Kroger or Fujitsu in saying them.

    The self checkouts at Kroger, depending on the model, can support checking out with a cartful. There should be some practicality however. The Carosel model of the U-Scan is the only model you can check out with a cartful on. You can tell which one it is, as it is tall (about 5 feet tall), and has 6 bag racks on the carosel, and a square solo scale in front of the dispenser door. (or on the Next Gen Carosel, which is shorter but still has 6 bag racks on the carosel, and a half moon scale on the end) This one can hold up to 450 pounds on both scales. (300 pounds on the 6 rack carosel, and 150 pounds on the solo/half moon scale) The bad part is, security by weight is how the software allows you to continue scanning – after you put the item on one of the bag scales, you have to wait for it to weigh (and if the item weighs what is in the database – assuming the grocery shrink ray hasn’t been active) and then it will allow you to continue and scan your next item.

    The newest model U-Scan Kroger has been installing, however, has a 150 pound limit across both scales. This model has a 4 bag rack carosel scale with a platform above. It will also have U-Scan Genesis on the top door of the unit. This unit should have a item limit due to it having a smaller weight limit. (just as the original LT model uscan – it also had a 150 pound limit, and it’s bag scale only had 2 or 3 bag racks)

    The original point of the self checkout was the realization of how managers cut costs – labor. With only one cashier for the express lane, if they were busy, you were stuck waiting in line. With 4 (and later, 6 and now up to 9) self checkouts, you still have one cashier (you cannot have security without an attendant) but more people can check out quickly. Because of the security model of the self checkout, you should not go through them with a large amount of groceries. You will get out much faster waiting in line for a regular register because there is no security model preventing you from scanning multiple items in rapid succession.

    In Kroger, they do not like to limit the amounts coming through the self checkout due to a high amount of customer complaints about the limits when cashiers enforce them.