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Checkout Trends

Stores are looking for more efficient ways to process customers and their purchases. Here are a few I've encountered.

1. One cashier, two sides.

2. One cashier, two exits.

3. Do it yourself.

4. Staggered front and pack 

5. 'Next, please'. 

My local fav, 'Shop n' Kart' uses the first. A cashier is situated in an island with a register on either side. Customers queue and are serviced on both sides. The cashier rotates from one side to the other. If the lines start backing up, second cashiers are added in sequence. Shop n' Kart doesn't have an express lane. Doing away with express lanes seem to be a growing trend.

I've encountered number 2, one cashier, two exits, at Winnco. You bag yourself there, so bagging seems to be the holdup. To help speed things along, there are two exit chutes & belts. These are separated by a gate. As one is bagging, the next one is checked through, with the gate switched to the other side. The problem is that the bags are all located on side number one. So you need to go around and interfere with the other person bagging if you need one. This is a store also without express lanes, and it really seems like one that can use it. Check out is most tedious here.

Do it yourself, number three, is mostly encountered at Lowe's and Home Depot, two hardware stores specializing in do it yourself. A person is stationed at the registers to facilitate. Some are over-eager and insist on doing everything for you. I imagine that reduces some of the the supposed benefits for the store, but whatever.

I actually like DIY check out. Two problems have been encountered at them.  One, Lowe's and Home Depot give military discounts for active and retired military, but there's no way for the register to process that, so you need to use the standard process for the discount. Two, it always requires you to 'bag your item', even if you don't want or need bags, or if you have your own bag. The machine gets quite upset if you don't, and sulks, refusing to process any more. The work around, bag it, remove it (and bag it in your own bag, if needed).

Staggered front and back have been encountered at Walmart's and Targets. They have one forward line of registers, with lines, and a second line of registers, with lines. The drawbacks are that it's difficult to see what registers are available during busy times, adding some levels of confusion and uncertainty. They do seem faster than the double chutes used at Winnco, though.

Last is the 'Next Please'. Banks and military commissaries and exchanges like this method. One line is used no matter how many registers are in use. The line is often serpentine, and there's the problem. When shopping at the commissary on many bases, you encounter the end of the line almost as soon as you enter, as it snakes around the store. It's not unusual to get in line to establish your place, then have your companion go around and shop, returning with needed items. Sometimes doing so requires two shopping carts. Not surprising, it can take a long time for you to check out, and I mean being in line forty to fifty minutes. 

Now they're talking about shopping carts and baskets that will check you out. That's what I would prefer:  no line at all, and no cashier. Of course, on the reverse side, that would eliminate many cashier positions, adding to unemployment dilemmas. 

There's alway a downside to progress. 

I bet eventually we'll be able to send in the order via the Internet (like Pea Pod and others attempted). Robot carts will follow electronic trails, and machines will dole issue your goods, according to your order, as the cart passes. Then the cart will check out. You'll drive up, validate payment, transfer the goods from the cart to your car, and off you go.

Of course, there will probably be a line of cars waiting for their carts. That's another challenge, for another day.