Friday, April 18, 2008

Fresh & Easy Marketing Director Talks About the 'Self-Service' Checkout Policy at the Stores in the F&E Company Blog

Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market marketing director Simon Uwins addressed the issue of the self-checkout system at the small-format, convenience-oriented Fresh & Easy grocery markets in a post in the company's corporate blog on Wednesday, April 16.

A newsworthy aspect of the post is that Uwins says Fresh & Easy continues its policy of providing "assisted service" at checkout in the stores. "If you want to check out yourself you can, if you want help we'll provide it, and if you want us (store clerks) to do it for you, we will," Uwins writes in his Wednesday blog post.

This is important news, since shortly after the first Fresh & Easy stores opened last year in November and December, a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market spokesperson said the grocery chain would be offering "assisted checkout," including having the store clerks do it completely for shoppers if they asked, for a few months after the first stores opened, then phasing it out and going to self checkout as a regular policy.

Since it's been almost six months since the fist stores opened, and Uwins writes that Fresh & Easy offers three options--self checkout, help in doing it, and full-service checkout--it sounds like the grocer has decided on a three-tiered checkout policy for now.

This will be important to numerous consumers who have told us they dislike the self-checkout practice.

However, if this is Fresh & Easy's policy presently, it might want to make customers and potential customers more aware of this fact.

We've observed shoppers struggling with the self-checkout at Fresh & Easy stores while clerks were busy doing other work. In some stores we've seen clerks offer to assist but in others that hasn't been our observation. We don't blame them if the policy hasn't been made clear to the store-level workers.

Also, as all retailer's know, shoppers are reluctant to ask for assistance at times when they perceive something like self-checkout to be the policy. However, they will vote with their feet by either not returning to the store or shopping there less frequently when they dislike such a policy or practice

We've also had numerous F&E shoppers mention the self-service policy to us when we've talked to them outside of the stores. If they were aware of and comfortable with either the assisted service or full-service options, we doubt if they would bring it up.

We also receive emails with comments about not liking the self-service policy from readers. Again, if they were aware of the other options we think it would be a moot point and we wouldn't be hearing these comments from customers and potential Fresh & Easy grocery store customers.

We've also read many such comments on numerous online review boards like Yelp, Chowhound, Craigslist and others regarding consumer dislike for the self-service checkout policy. If these consumers were made aware that they have two other options--help in doing it themselves or full-service--such increased awareness could go along way into creating more shoppers for the stores.

We haven't seen any signs at the checkout stands in the Fresh & Easy stores spelling out the three service options Mr. Uwins writes about in the corporate blog. Perhaps they are there--and we just missed the signs, which is possible?

However, we've observed enough and heard from enough consumers, to know that there exists a lack of awareness among many shoppers and potential shoppers of the stores that these three tiers of checkout service are available.

Perhaps having store clerks tell each shopper the options available--along with clearly worded signs--might be a good idea.

We enjoyed reading Uwins' post, and the fact he is communicating about the checkout process in the stores.

You can read his Wednesday, April 16 post on the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market corporate blog titled, "Where are the robots at fresh & easy?" here.

1 comment:

Ron said...

My wife and I were in a F+E store for the first time yesterday. Both of us despise self service checkout so when we entered the store and saw the checkout I was going to turn right around and leave. Then I notice that there was a large group of employees swarming over the checkouts helping out and checking out customers. This plus our curiosity about a new store made us decide to stay. We shopped the entire store and the employees we encountered were very pleasant and helpfull. However, when it came time to check out there was only one employee left at the front of the house trying to help check out at least 15 customers. I told my wife, just leave the full cart here and lets walk out. She elected to stay and started ringing up the order herself. You could tell she was very frustrated and eventually the clerk came over to us. My wife informed the clerk that we would not be shopping there ever again. The clerk tried to explain to us "assisted checkout" but with so many customers there and just one clerk it was obvious that there was no way to pull that off. The clerk tried to help us and it was very awkward bagging and scanning with the clerk dancing back and forth between and around us. We will never go there again. There are many other choices.