Tesco shopper's plea to bring back till staff

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Tesco shopper's plea to bring back till staff
Pat McCarthyImage source, Pat McCarthy
Image caption,
Pat McCarthy started a petition called "Tesco to stop the replacement of people by machines"

A Tesco shopper is urging the supermarket to "stop replacing people with machines" after she struggled to use the store's self-service checkouts.

Pat McCarthy, 69, started a petition calling for more cashiers on tills because "you can't speak to a machine".

She is one of the many who complain self-service tills are too slow or hard to use, and her petition has been signed by more than 97,000 people.

Tesco said staff were always on hand to help at either type of checkout.

Ms McCarthy, from Brentford in West London, said she began her campaign after visiting the Tesco Extra in Osterley where she said three quarters of the tills were self-service.

"These new tills are not accessible for people who don't have credit cards and can only use cash or those with little confidence to use these self-service card-only tills - myself included," she wrote on her Change.org page.

The volunteer, who helps people with disabilities, told the 365Nainanews there were five or six staffed tills but she faced a 30 minute wait due to queues.

"You do need some self-service for the people who find them more convenient but just fewer," she said.

Ms McCarthy said she loved chatting with checkout staff as she lives on her own, but "now that experience has been taken away from me".

A Tesco spokesperson said: "Our colleagues and the friendly service they provide are absolutely vital to our stores and will always be on hand to help our customers, whether they are checking out at one of our colleague-operated or self-service checkouts."

Ms McCarthy is not alone. Some customers have complained that self-service tills are slower than staffed ones despite being billed as being faster.

Others find them annoying. In 2015, Morrisons brought back staff at 1,000 "express" checkouts after finding that 67% of customers felt nervous using self scanning tills.

Self-serviceImage source,
Image caption,
Tesco introduced self-service tills in its stores 20 years ago

The Twitter hashtag #BringBackTescoStaff has been used more than 3,000 times as shoppers share Ms McCarthy's petition and their own experiences.

Dr Angi tweeted: "On my last visit to Tesco's we had a £170 shop. We were told to go to the self check out tills! We said unless you open the check out we were leaving all this right here and will never shop here again - they opened the tills."

Another customer Steve tweeted: "Being on the autistic spectrum, I find self service tills a godsend as I don't have to queue anxiously waiting, knowing I have to speak to someone."

Tesco said it introduced self-service checkouts nearly 20 years ago to give customers a choice and all of its stores had both options.

In October, the supermarket converted its store in High Holborn in central London into a which allows customers to shop and pay without using a checkout.

Shape of things to come?

At the time Richard Lim, chief executive of retail analyst group Retail Economics, said the move was "reflective of the way the wider industry is heading".

According to one estimate, the number of self-service checkouts in stores worldwide was forecast at 325,000 in 2021 - up from around 200,000 in 2013.

Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer magazine, said the decline in the number of staffed tills in supermarkets reflected shopper preference for getting in and out quickly.

He said: "On my High Street, the new Amazon Fresh store with the fancy just-walk-out tech is always empty, whereas the new deli, four doors down employs six to eight people on each shift and is rammed to the gills.

"It shows that many shoppers still value great customer service and human interaction and technology won't always win. So supermarkets will need to listen hard as the market evolves and cater for all needs."

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