On the face of things, I like the idea of self check-out lanes. Much like having an ATM at the bank, those with only a few items can pay for their stuff and go without much fuss. However, most of the stores that have them seem to have some kind of flaw in their implementation.
The one at Shaw’s is designed more towards an express lane-style usage. You scan your items and drop them into the row of plastic bag holders. If you like paper bags, you’re out of luck here. The responsiveness of the scanner isn’t very good, and the “bag area” is not conducive to having odd sized items placed on it. You see, there’s a weight sensor underneath the bag rack that detects whether or not you’ve placed something on it. If you don’t place it (or if it’s very light) the woman voice of the machine will bark “Please place item in the bagging area!” in a very stern and condescending tone. Unfortunately, the bagging area is very small and it’s possible that you need to move some bags around depending on how many/what items you have. It just makes for an annoying experience.
The touchscreen GUI is also pretty slow. It’s clear the machines running these are quite underpowered. If they could make these things have a UI, polish, and responsiveness similar to an iPhone, these things could be even more efficient by virtue of getting people out of the way faster. They cram two of these in the place of one checkout line, so space is at a premium.
The machines at Stop and Shop, on the other hand, are a little different. They are more like standard checkout lanes, except the terminal has replaced the person. These can, theoretically, be used for larger loads if you have someone tag teaming you to bag the groceries with. At these ones, you scan the item and place it on a set of rollers and belt to send it down to a holding area. It’s a different take than the Shaw’s style, and it has its advantages. Unfortunately, if your area thinks it’s full (even if it may not truly be full), it will not allow you to scan any more items until you bag some stuff. Boo.
On the positive side, if one of the grocery store baggers (remember those?) walks by, he/she will help you bag up your items and place them in your cart. Points there to Stop and Shop. The user interface on the terminal also seems friendlier as well, with the instructions taking a gentler tone. There’s no commands or barking, just a status update. I also find the touch panels for selecting fruits and veggies to be more responsive than Shaw’s, too. In terms of friendliness, Stop and Shop’s win.