It sounds kind of weird to me that I’m having grocery store discussions with my suburban mom friends, but the new HEB in our neighborhood is the talk of Facebook.
And while I feel like I should have curlers in my hair and a casserole in the oven while we discuss the merits of race car shopping carts vs. airplane shopping carts, the discussions revealed some things I think retailers would find interesting.
I said the new store didn’t have self service scales, which was a major downgrade for me, and would probably keep me from shopping there on a regular basis.
One friend asked me why I like self service scales, because she doesn’t. She said with two kids running around she just wants to get in and get out of the produce department.
I said if I don’t use them, I spend more time in the checkout line while clerks look up my weird produce purchases. She thought about that and agreed that it had taken a little longer in the checkout line for the clerk, who was learning PLU codes at the time, to look up easy things like red onions and broccoli. Never mind things like ginger and lacinato kale.
Here’s the thing about shopping with small children. Would I rather spend a little more time in the produce department using a self service scale to print out a bar code for my purchase, or stand in the red alert bad food target rich environment that is the checkout lane, with a kid asking for candy, and chips and all manner of ABSOLUTELY NOs that are within their reach?
Another mom said she loves self service scales because it saves her from getting sticker shock. When you’re on a tight budget, it helps to know you’re not dropping $5 on grapes or $10 on cherries.
The couple of times I’ve been to the new store have shown me the value of self service checkouts for a retailer.
The first time I went, I bought two bunches of organic kale, for $2.47 a bunch. I shoved them both in the same bag, as I usually do, and went through the checkout. The clerk looked in the bag to find the PLU (94627, if you’re curious) and keyed it in. What I didn’t notice until I left was that she only charged me for one bunch, instead of two.
$-2.47 for the store.
The second time I went, I picked up some organic cilantro, which was priced for $1.39 (or somewhere near that) a bunch. The clerked glanced at my bag, and immediately keyed in 4889, and cost the store that $1 markup between organic and conventional.
$-1 for the store.
Granted, not everyone has trained themselves to use self service checkouts, but I liken it to training yourself to bring in your grocery bags. Once you get used to it, they make life easier for both the retailer and the shopper.
We’re going to have to get used to bringing in our own bags, anyway, as the Austin bag ban goes into effect in March.
Oh, and by the way, check out the Produce Retailer November cover story It All Adds Up for tips to avoid mis-rings.