Sunday, 9 June 2013

Tesco Express

I was moderately impressed with the Tesco Express at the top of the hill by Savoy Place on Saturday. I was at ORGCON2013 at the IET, which is an nice venue, but they ran out of food. Yes, they got more later, but not before I went for a walk.

It is a small shop, and a sensible selection of Tesco goods, mostly centred on the snacks, as you may expect, but pretty good.

What impressed me was the checkout which was one whole wall of self service tills and one person supervising - yes, a shop with circa 8 tills and one person. It was efficient. No queue.

Except for a tiny detail. The tills were more compact that normal stores, as makes sense, and were a row of bagging/basket and till alternating. I did not read the big clear signs, and as I did not have a basket for three packets of crisps, I put them on the basket area, not the bagging area. D'Oh!

So, the till sensibly told me I was an idiot. It said, in text on screen "place item in bagging area" and spoke to me to say this, and even did an on-screen animation of a shopper placing items in the bagging area.

This is good, as the animation and text and audio covers blind, deaf, foreign, and stupid all in one go.

Except! The animation clearly showed the shopper placing the items low down on the right, as per the full size self service tills. This was confusing as I had placed low down on left. The design was such that it seemed "left" was the obvious side, but in fact the bagging area was higher up on left. I even tried falling for the animation putting on the right, low down. I was put right by the one supervising shopkeeper. I was not alone at that instant in my confusion - correcting numpties not reading the signs seemed his main job.

Why have wrong animation?

I can't help feeling the people making the tills have animation that works for this, and it is a simple config issue. Some software designed is cringing reading this, maybe. I bet the shopkeeper spends all day correcting people and either has no interest in reporting the error or no means to. As you go up layers of management or franchise you may find people uninterested in fixing this minor issue. It probably causes annoyance and wastes time every few minutes of every day in thousands of shops - but nobody cares enough to say so.

Amusingly, whilst looking for an image for this post I found one showing bagging on the left, albeit low down, which makes me even more confident they have animations for every physical configuration if only someone cared enough to fix it in this case.

Ultimately the world needs more OCD. Then stuff would be just right. Though I was told OCD should be CDO to be in alphabetic order, as it should be. Sorry if anyone if offended by that but it is my blog :-)

19 comments:

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    1. LOL, not my picture :-)

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    2. Unless I'm missing something those numbers don't add up..

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    3. Ahh dammit I must have added it up wrong. Wish I'd worked that out before posting :p

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  2. I would expect that the people who installed these things were trained on how to set them up correctly (I wouldn't necessarily expect the shopkeeper to be able to do it).. but some people just don't seem to care about doing their job properly.

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  3. Sainsbury's self checkouts ask you t the beginning of the transaction whether you're using your own bags. When you scan your Nectar card they ask you again. You're a finite state machine, checkout, you shouldn't have to ask that question.

    Also, at the payment screen where it asks you how you want to pay, if you insert a card into the Chip & PIN terminal, it admonishes you to tell it you're paying by card, when it clearly knows this already. A Tesco machine from the same manufacturer doesn't do this.

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    1. Agreed, very silly. I rather like the Morrison's ones as they handle change really well - if you have loads of coins then do not *pay* to use the coin sorter that is next to the self service till - just buy one item and poor all coins in to the till.

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    2. There's actually a sensible reason for asking twice, as I understand it (at least in Tesco's case: my local Sainsburys is still a building site at present) ... the first time is a boolean, to give you a chance to put your bags on the bagging scale to take their weight into account when checking items, the second time is for crediting you with 'green Clubcard points' once you know *how many* bags you used for the items, which of course you don't know for sure until the end of the transaction.

      Yes, the Morrison's coin handling is a very welcome feature; years of emptying pockets prior to laundry left me with a bucket of assorted coinage, until that arrived here. A few weeks of filling a jacket pocket with coins each time I went in that direction got the bucket's contents converted to food quite efficiently.

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    3. Agreed, but after it asks you for the second time whether you used your own bags, it asks how many. It need only ask how many, as it already knows from the first Boolean query that you did use them.

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    4. They won't let you proceed, even on own bags, until the supervisor checks it. Sainsburys did that to me a few times. At least some of the tills now have the nice wide-mouth change slots, easier to use than the traditional ones.

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  4. I avoid using these where possible - they seem to go wrong every time I use the damned things (ok, I'll risk it for a couple of packets of crisps, but nothing more). I think my record is having to wait for an assistant 5 or 6 times in one session after the till repeatedly got things wrong (e.g. being told that I've removed an item from the bagging area when I haven't. My favourite is when it tells me that I've put too much on the bagging area (i.e. it thinks I put something there which I didn't scan), so I lift off the last item and it tells me that I need to put it back, so I put it back and it tells me I need to take it off again, rinse, repeat). They invariably take me longer (with all the waiting for an assistant every other item) then just queuing for a proper checkout.

    The small ones in the Tesco Express are also a problem if you're buying more than one bag's worth of shopping, since the bagging area is tiny and you're not allowed to remove a bag so you end up with a bunch of precariously balanced bags stacked on top of each other.

    My local B&Q has a customer comments board, and there is almost always a "please have more staff at the checkouts instead of just the self-service tills" comment on there... they haven't paid any attention to those reoccurring comments, but I'm clearly not the only person who dislikes the self service machines. To be fair to B&Q, the machines at least know that some stuff is too big to expect you to put on the bagging area :)

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  5. Loath them for all the reasons that Steve mentions plus the fact that the gains are all in the store's favour.

    As Adrian points out you can get away with one member of staff for quite a few of these things so the store saves salaries, they're rarely faster than going through the tills because people scan stuff slower than the staff and any large amount of shopping is impossible because there's too little room.

    Also they do nothing for what I find to be the biggest pain of supermarket shopping which is that, after traipsing around getting stuff of shelves and putting it in a trolley you have to get it all *out* of the trolley again to put it through the till before finally putting it into bags.

    Thankfully the local Tesco has put in a scan as you shop system which at least means that I get something out of it as I now don't have unpack my shopping at the till. There's also no "incorrect item in the bagging area" rubbish either.

    Interestingly the handsets appear to be running Windows CE

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  6. The Southampton Sainsburys has had a scan-as-you-shop thing for years... its brillient. Sadly they never rolled it out to any other stores.

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    1. The two local ones here have the "fast track" scan.. Use it every time but it is a serious pain in the bum when you get a re-scan.

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  7. My local ASDA has done this right - there are at least a dozen (maybe twenty) self-checkout tills, with single-queue barriers so you don't get people trying to jump the queue, even accidentally. The machines are different sizes, ranging from a single-basket "output" side, to some that have a platform that's big enough to sleep on! It's *always* faster than using the manned tills. Yes it gets the weighing wrong sometimes, but there are always staff on hand to clear it quickly. And the tills give cashback (Sainsbury's don't). You can also pay by mixed methods, putting in loose change first to get rid of it, then switching to a card for the rest. I *never* use their manned tills nowadays - when I did there was always someone in front with a problem, and I'd end up standing for five minutes while the till operator, then a supervisor, sorted it out. Since self-checkout is a single queue feeding parallel machines, you can't get stuck behind someone, nor feel guilty that you're holding up a queue when you have a problem. Doing it properly, not for minimum cost, is the answer!

    Cheers, Howard

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  8. Oh, and my local Sainsbury's had "Scan as you shop", but took it away because "nobody used it" - nobody except me, apparently. And the number of times when it triggered a manual re-scan (for no obvious reason) made it incredibly annoying.
    My local Waitrose has scan-as-you-shop, but when I enquired they said I could only use it if I had one of their (credit?) cards. Really stupid!

    Cheers, Howard

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    1. Howard - we used to use our local Waitrose's scan-as-you-shop all the time (well, apart from when we forgot bags): only reason we stopped was the fact we moved and the nearest Waitrose is quite a distance away. Anyway - the QuickCheck system is "keyed" to *any* credit/debit card [ see http://helpandsupport.waitrose.com/system/selfservice.controller?CONFIGURATION=1006&PARTITION_ID=1&secureFlag=false&CMD=VIEW_ARTICLE&ARTICLE_ID=6839 ]: just ask the customer services to register for the QuickCheck and provide your card and some personal data (name, address etc). From then on, just swipe the registered card and pick up the scanner (you don't even need to pay with the card). Easy.

      We used it for over a year (at least once a week) and in that time only had one "verify scan" (relatively near the start). Brilliant system: just wish they gave you the chance to "buy bags" near the entrance of the store. If you do use a JohnLewis credit card, I believe you can forgo all human contact and just use that card to pay at the end (all non-JL card holders need to hand the scanner to a human, then hand over payment method etc).

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    2. We used to use Waitrose's scan thing and pay with a JL card. Not only can you whizz through checkout doing it all yourself, but you get double points on the JL card too.
      That was then. Now, we rarely go to a supermarket any more - why bother when (in our case) Ocado, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsburys and (not that we'd even consider using them) Tesco can deliver to your door?

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  9. Some B&Q's have an extra 'bagging area' for oversize items - I discovered this when the till complained and it turned out that somebody's kid was hiding in it...

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