Self-checkout shopping – What South Africans are missing out on

Self-checkout shopping is quick and convenient – and is widely used in London.

During a recent trip to the city, the Staff Writer visited many food stores and found that self-checkout tills were the default option for paying for your shopping.

After selecting a few sandwiches and packets of M&M’s, I tested the checkout tills and was impressed by their speed and accuracy.

The test is detailed below.

The store

One of the stores visited, and in which this test was conducted, was a Waitrose at King’s Cross station.

The store front is shown below.

Shopping till


You walk around the store as normal, putting your items in a basket as you select them from the shelves.

The difference comes in at the checkout area, where instead of a row of store employees behind counters, you have a cluster of self-service tills.

It must be noted that this store also contained a few manned till points, too.

Each self-service till is made up of several components, namely:

  • A large touchscreen display
  • A barcode scanner
  • A scale for scanned items
  • A shelf to place your shopping on

A photo of the till, with already-scanned items, is below.

Shopping till

How it works

The process to checkout is straightforward.

A shopper places their basket of items on the small shelf.

The display prompts you to select whether you have any loyalty cards, and then you start scanning.

Each item must be placed with its barcode facing the scanner, and is then scanned. The scanner works well, and as soon as the barcode is near the general area of the scanner, it is picked up.

Once you have scanned an item, you place it on the scale and it detects the item.

This ensures shoppers scan and place their items correctly. The store also had CCTV cameras on the till area.

If you wish to remove an item, you can take it off the scale and the display will ask whether this item must be removed from your bill.

Shoppers can also select a bag for their shopping, and scan it at the till.

Once all your items are scanned and placed, you then select a payment option on the screen.

I selected card payment, and paid with my credit card at the card terminal – which supports NFC tap payments up to £30 (R580).

At the multiple food stores I visited, there was a shop employee at the self-checkout section to assist users who encountered problems with the tills.

One employee usually oversaw 8-10 tills, based on my experience.

Photos of the self-checkout till are shown below.

Shopping till

Shopping till

Shopping till

Tills in South Africa

Self-checkout shopping is nothing new, though, and was even trialled by Pick n Pay in South Africa in 2016.

However, following workers’ unions stating that self-checkouts would lead to job losses, Pick n Pay cancelled the trial.

Cosatu said it was “bitterly opposed” to the self-service checkout system – and as of 2018, Pick n Pay said there had been no developments to the system and there were no plans to take it forward.

It must be noted that in other UK shops visited – such as clothing and lifestyle stores – no self-checkout options were available. Manned tills were the norm and you wait in a queue as you would in SA.

Overall, the self-checkout shopping experience I had was solid and worked well.

It also appeared to be the popular choice for shoppers, who would not wait for a manned till to open and rather used self-service points which were often more numerous.

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Self-checkout shopping – What South Africans are missing out on