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The Best and Worst Self Checkouts, According to F&W Editors

Target’s self checkout update unleashed our pent-up feelings from loud, error-prone self-checkout experiences at grocery stores and retailers.

<p>Getty</p>

Getty

Last week, Target announced its self-checkout lanes will be limited to 10 items or less, and we created a safe space for F&W editors to vent about what makes self checkouts so problematic.

Staffers in Alabama, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Texas ranked Whole Foods as having the best self-checkout experience among nationwide grocery stores for having working technology and employees present to help. Our editors commend the store’s system for efficiency and functionality, noting the only pain point is when customers in front of you are unfamiliar with the self checkout, in which, “It all goes to hell.”

Regional supermarkets like HEB in Texas and Publix in the Southeast top mainstream stores like Target and Walmart for customer service, not only staffing the self-checkout lane, but reportedly guiding customers and handing out bags.

Related: The 20 Best Regional Supermarket Chains of All Time

Wegman’s — the Rochester, New York-born grocery store chain with locations in eight states on the East Coast from North Carolina to Delaware — got the most shoutouts for its high-tech features. One editor says the scanner identifies produce in seconds, while another loves how slots hold reusable bags open without the extra weight halting the process.

Speaking of totes, Trader Joe’s got some love, too. “I don't know why retail chains and supermarkets don't just approach the checkout line the way Trader Joe's does,” says Karla Alindahao, senior editor of news and trends. “Even when it's super long, it's still incredibly organized and fast, so you don't get that sense of dread that you'll be waiting longer than you should.”

Which brings us to the biggest friction making self checkouts so painful: blaring delays. We are evenly split on the top pain points — keying in produce, navigating the scales, ID checks, and removing security tags — because each obstacle threatens to shame us loudly. The F&W staff self-reports feelings of anxiety, panic, insecurity, and embarrassment when self checkout machines scold us, and one editor pleads with grocers to implement volume control.

“I hate the especially loud announcements that some of the self checkouts employ,” says Cheryl Slocum, senior food editor. “No one besides me needs to hear the prices of what I am buying. I like my privacy.”

Related: Customers Like This Grocery Store More Than Whole Foods

With that said, the unanimously ranked worst self-checkout experience is consistently the loudest at CVS, where one savvy F&W staffer recommends a light alert system rather than those alarming sounds. We would not want the video footage leaked from our experiences facing the CVS self-checkout kiosk.

Nothing, though, can drown out our disdain for another retail anti-theft measure: security glass. Waiting for someone to unlock our access to dish soap or deodorant is threatening our collective top priority when grocery shopping: time. Staff the self-checkout lane, steer us to human cashiers, upgrade the technology, whatever it takes to get these groceries home sooner so we can start cooking.

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