business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reader Janis Raye wanted to weigh in on our self-scanning conversation:

Just a comment on self-scanning (which I only do if I have a very small number of groceries). I worked for Citibank way back in the day when ATMs were just being installed. Within the bank, it was acknowledged that they were intended to save on staffing costs for the bank — but the public line was that they were to make things quicker and easier for customers. They did both, obviously.

Self-checkout seems exactly the same to me — it’s clearly a way for supermarkets to save money by reducing the number of cashiers hired, but it’s sold to customers as a way to improve their checkout experience. But while I use ATMs frequently to get cash, I tend to resent the self-checkout lanes every time I use them. I think that’s because the experience of using self-checkout isn’t really very good. I usually have to call over the helper for something that doesn’t work, whereas I never have to ask the bank teller for help with the ATM. 

MNB reader Monte Stowell chimed in:

The reason self checkout is up 38% is plain to see. Go into an Albertsons, Safeway, or a Fred Meyer here in Portland, Oregon and you will see 6-7-8 full service check stands not being manned, and maybe 2-4 with a cashier with people standing in line. The self checkout lines are generally quite busy with people standing in line to check themselves out. Why is this happening? One reason, the stores cannot find enough people to work in the stores. Second, a rare sight is seeing a store manager or an assistant manager working in the check stand. Fred Meyer has lots of store chiefs walking around and I do not see them in the check stands taking care of the customer. Too many empty check stands and not enough people to man them is not a good visual to the customer. Ditto issues at Walmart.  Again, Winco generally has enough people to staff their registers, and their self-checkout lines are busy as well. 

Regarding Kroger's decision to emphasize discounts for Thanksgiving, one MNB reader wrote:

Perhaps Kroger saw that some other retailers like Winco were far undercutting them on pricing on traditional Thanksgiving fare and didn't want to lose that business.  It's a long held idea that where ever you buy the turkey from, that's where you purchase nearly everything else.

Reacting to another story from this week, MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

I have to wonder, with the FMI's statement about being able to track various food products, they need to think, do they really want to end up on the wrong side of this argument.  I know right now the average consumer doesn't know about the FMI, but as we've seen with other organizations and people, that can change rapidly.  The point is to be careful what you think and what you say, it could come back to bite  you.

And, responding to my public service announcement about giving blood, one MNB reader wrote:


I’m actually donating platelets and plasma this afternoon!  Will be my 13th time this year.

Good for you.