Self-service Swiss supermarkets

January 3, 2013, 6 Comments

Migros airport 2Scan, bag, pay – all without a cashier. Self-service checkouts are fast, easy, and finally in Switzerland. I saw my first one recently in the Migros at Zurich airport, where clearly people are often in a hurry and so don’t want to wait in a queue to pay. But it’s about time every supermarket, and many other shops, in Switzerland introduced them. Then shopping would be faster – and more fun. I love using them!

In Britain such innovation has been around for some time. Many shops have a self-service checkout (or even a Self-Checkout as Migros called it), and not just supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury but also High Street chains like Boots the Chemist and W H Smith. When you only have one or two things to buy, it makes everything so much quicker. Last week in London I noticed that some shops have more self-service checkouts than manned ones just to cope with the volume of customers.

And even down in the sleepy Hampshire town where I grew up, one supermarket has them installed and the other has the self-scanning system (similar to the Passabene in a few Coops in Switzerland). There the shopper has a mobile scanner to use on each item as it goes into the trolley, and then the details are downloaded at the till. But that usually involves pre-registering and using a manned till. Full automation is far better.

What’s interesting is that it has taken so long for self-service tills to arrive in Switzerland. This is a country where trust is a way of life. Many shops, even in the cities, leave goods on display outside without a member of staff there on guard, trusting that customers will pick them up and pay inside. It’s also common to see displays left out overnight or on Sundays, when the shop is shut: our local Coop leaves the compost bags and plant pots out. So why can’t customers be trusted to scan and pay for their shopping themselves? It’s not very Swiss.

And then there’s the matter of payment. You’ll notice in the picture above that it says ‘electronic payment only’, which is in itself rather odd as cash is still king in Switzerland. People carry far more cash, and use it more often, here than in many other places. So why not have machines that accept cash? In Britain, where plastic is a way of life and you can pay for almost anything with a card, the self-service tills take notes and coins, and give change, quite easily. An unexpected role reversal.

So I look forward to more of such tills in Switzerland. Not only are they faster but the service is better. If I am serving myself, I can smile and say please & thank you, which more than you get in many Swiss shops.

6 Comments on "Self-service Swiss supermarkets"

  1. Tom Waugh Thursday January 3rd, 2013 at 05:05 PM · Reply

    Agreed they’re a time saver and a help when you only have a few items to buy but in the long run they are just a way of replacing staff.

    • Diccon Bewes Thursday January 3rd, 2013 at 06:42 PM · Reply

      Possibly true, Tom, but it could also mean better service (how often are all the tills in a supermarket open?) and lower prices if staff overheads are reduced. Such tills would be perfect in the train stations and Coop Pronto, where most people only buy a few things and want to be in and out quickly.

  2. Anna Thursday January 3rd, 2013 at 07:16 PM · Reply

    I don’t like them. Because exactly when you are in a hurry, they’ll stop you and make a random check!

  3. Jens Poulsen Saturday January 5th, 2013 at 08:10 PM · Reply

    One reason why they have arrived late in Switzerland is the fear that it would have been thought of as reducing the service. Since the public image of Migros and Coop is very important to them every new introduction is carefully checked against this image.
    But yes, I also love the Migros self-checkouts and wish they would implement it in many more of their shops.

  4. James McCormack Wednesday January 30th, 2013 at 11:55 AM · Reply

    This Swiss seem afraid to use them…they’d rather queue six deep at a manned checkout. Who said the Swiss don’t know how to queue?

    For me It’s fabulous, having been conditioned into using them in the UK, each and every time I checkout at Zugerland Migros I have a choice of 6 free terminals. No waiting.

  5. Ben Monday April 8th, 2013 at 01:51 PM · Reply

    Having used these machines, they are certainly very convenient, and even more than their English counterparts. There are none of those frustrating moments where you have to keep asking for assistance because of age verification, or, my pet hate of ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. The Swiss versions allow you to get on with it easily.

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