Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Some supermarket reflections!

We don’t have a Waitrose in our neck of the woods. Just in case I was being unfair, I checked online. The nearest store is a Little Waitrose near Piccadilly Station in Manchester city centre. Just as I thought. Maybe we are just not posh enough for Waitrose. After all, I know people who maintain that Sainsbury’s is too expensive and too posh for them.

Even the names of the mini versions of the supermarket stores are perhaps indicative of this poshness. Tesco have Tesco Express, suggesting a place you drop into as you hurry past, possibly in your way back to work at the end of your lunch hour. Sainsbury’s have Sainsbury’s Local, reminiscent of the corner shop that supermarkets forced out of business. Waitrose, on the other hand, has the rather twee-sounding Little Waitrose.

Even it’s loyalty card is sweetly called “myWaitrose”, implying a personal, selective service. Mind you, Sainsbury’s have “Nectar”, with a hint of poshness. Tesco’s “Clubcard”, on the other hand, suggests the kind of Christmas clubs some local stores organise to help people save money towards their big Christmas food shop. And the Coop just has it’s members’ card, which until recently still paid you a dividend into your bank account, reminding me of going shopping for my mother and giving her ‘divi’ number to the shop assistant who wrote down in a book how much dividend that particular member was entitled to.

I started thinking about all this when I came across an article in which the writer grew indignant about being singled out for a scan check in Waitrose when she had used their self-scanning system, Quick Check. According to their website, “Quick Check makes shopping at Waitrose easy and quick and as a myWaitrose member, you won't need to register to get started. Simply scan and pack your shopping straight into your bags. You’ll see a running total of your spend and when you’ve finished, just pay and go, with no need to unpack at the checkout.” This particular shopper had her trolley singled out when she went to pay. It was whisked off to a conventional checkoit and re-scanned. Bang went her time-saving!

Part of the store’s response to her indignant outburst was this:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that retailers are losing millions from “self-scanning thieves”, which is why supervised checks are carried out. Our understanding is that if a random scan (triggered in roughly one shop in every 200) reveals a noticeable discrepancy between the total triggered by the shopper’s self-scan and the subsequent one carried out by staff, a “red flag” is raised on your registered card. This means you will be subjected to further re-scans to find out if an error was a one-off, or deliberate behaviour. You would have been better prepared and less shocked if you had read the terms and conditions.”

However, the writer felt humiliated by the whole business. I rather get the impression that people who shop in Waitrose don’t expect to be suspected of shoplifting. It also crosses my mind that it might not be really worthwhile filching one or two items when your whole trolley is quite expensive. Or am I letting my prejudice show? Maybe I am doing the store a great injustice!

Another aspect of all this self-scanning and the self-check out systems that most supermarkets, and W. H. Smith stores, have is the employment issue. Each time we self-check our shopping we reduce the number of till assistants needed! But that is another matter altogether!

Maybe the writer should visit some stores in Spain which will not let you take into their premises shopping bags from other stores. You have to leave them in a locker. Or there are the ones that shrink-wrap or staple shut your plastic carriers of purchases from other shops. That, together with demanding ID when you pay by card, is a really suspicious attitude to customers!

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