In This Episode…

In this episode I share the trials and tribulations I encountered with my local supermarket introducing a new checkout system.   

They are adding a new way of checking out that speeds things up and makes things more convenient.  

But as with any new system, especially one that relies heavily on the interface of technology and people, it has its teething problems.   

I explain some of the difficulties I encountered, but more importantly I share the important lessons I took from the experience.

Episode Transcript

Hi, and welcome to today’s episode of the Profit Productivity Podcast . It’s your host, Michael Tipper. Who else would it be?

Now today I want to tell you about an experience I had just recently at the supermarket.

Because we’ve been in lockdown and we’ve still got some of the restrictions in place, you have to go out and queue up to get into the supermarket.

They let you in slowly so they can control the number of people and ensure the proper social distancing. Too many people in a confined space is not going to be good. So they do limit the numbers in and out.

The Supermarket Were Introducing A New Self-Checkout System

Whilst I was waiting in the queue, one of the supermarket employees was walking up and down the queue, offering an information card about a new system they have for scanning your shopping.

Conventionally you used to go in and pick up a basket or a trolley, wander around the aisles and gather your shopping.

Then you’d check out either through on of the tills manned by a check out person or go to one of the self checkouts.

You would then pay and then leave to go wherever you needed to go next.

According to this card, they’ve got a new system where you basically download an app onto your phone. Then, as you go round, you put your shopping directly into your own bag as you scan it with your phone.

When you’ve completed your shopping, you just go to a special checkout and Zap your phone by reading a QR code on the till. It then talks to your phone, immediately transfers your shopping list onto the system so it knows exactly how much you need to pay.

You then pay and then and off you go.

It’s going to be a much, much quicker way of doing the grocery shopping.

So I thought, well, I’ll try this.

I downloaded the app, picked up my basket and followed the instructions. I only had about four or five items to pick up because this was an interim shop. Therefore it was a perfect opportunity to test out this new system.

So off I went, round the aisles to do my shopping.

The New System Was Unfamiliar And Seemed To Have Problems

I had a couple of problems scanning the item bar codes because I wasn’t on their wifi. I was on the 4G network and because I was at the back of the store, the connection wasn’t good.

It was slow to recognise items and register them on the app, but it did it with some mild encouragement and somewhat frantic manipulating of the phone and the item.

But eventually I’d gathered my four or five items and had scanned them into my phone. I’d already packed them in my shopping bag and was ready to check out.

Now the instructions on the App said I should go look for the QR code.

It didn’t actually say, whether I should be looking for it in the app or whether I should I be looking for it around the store.

So it was a little bit lost.

Anyway, I made my way to where I thought I needed to go because it wasn’t clear. I found myself, at one of those self-serve checkouts.

I stood in the queue, socially distanced of course. Still unsure of what to do, I asked one of the staff members when they walked past.

They said, what I needed to do was go to the checkout, scan the code on the till with my phone and it should transfer it over. That sounded easy enough.

I found the checkout till with code and waved my phone in front of it. It blipped and data seemed to be transferred from the phone to the till.

But when I put my bag on the scale for it to check I’d not added anything without scanning it, the till suggested I should start scanning my items.

All the activity I’d done to get the items into the app seemed to have been a waste of time. I tried pressing a few buttons but nothing seemed to happen.

I called someone over. They pressed a few buttons, entered their special code and tried to get into the system to see if they could recover what happened.


In the end I had to go back to the old way and just manually scan it in myself.

I had the rather satisfying experience of scan, blip, scan, blip, scan, blip.

I paid and then walked out with my shopping. On my way out, the shop assistant apologised.

It appeared their new system didn’t work and seemed to be a complete waste of time and an experience of complete frustration.

New Systems Inevitably Have Teething Problems

But every new system has its teething problems.

I know that once that system is in place and it’s up and working and they’ve ironed out all the bugs, I will walk in there with my shopping list on my phone, find my items, scan them, bag them, and then I’ll go to a checkout.

I could be out of there within a minute, providing there aren’t too many people queuing for the self serve checkout. The whole experience is going to be so much easier.

But the first time I tried it, it was hard work. I had to think about it. It was difficult. I made mistakes. It seemed to be more of a challenge.

I thought to myself “Why don’t I go back to the old way – that will be easier?”

Often when introducing replacement systems and new processes, there is inevitably going to be an adjustment as learning it takes place. There is also going to be a recalibration of how things are done.

And as I experienced, things don’t always go right first time. That’s really important to understand.

Push Through The Initial Problems And You’ll Wander How You Ever Survived Without It

But I know by pushing through this, the supermarket are going to have a really good system.

By pushing through it for myself and experience the learning pains, I know I’m going to get my shopping done much, much quicker.

But I will have to endure this early phase of getting it right.

When you are looking at making efficiencies in what you do, you’re probably going to go have to go through the same sort of experience.

You’re going to design or try a new system. It’s going to be clunky to start off with.

You’ll have to think about it. It’s going to seem like harder work.

You’ll want to go back to the old way.

The new way might not even work first time. But if you persist through it and fine tune it as it starts to work, you’ll get used to it and you will be far more effective and far more efficient.

So today was a really interesting lesson for me to experience that and see that firsthand and try that out.

It reminded me of the challenges people will have when they introduce new systems that will eventually be more efficient and more effective.

But often those inevitable challenges are the things that will stop people, making that progress.

That’s today’s episode.

Until tomorrow.

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