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Self-service trend can be convenient, or not

Friday - 1/11/2013, 10:10am  ET

automated grocery store (WTOP/Kristi King)
Some say age verification for alcohol purchases can slow down automated checkouts at grocery stores. (WTOP/Kristi King)
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Self-service: Love it or hate it

WTOP's Kristi King reports.

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Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The U.S. is becoming a "self-serve" nation.

Some people appreciate the convenience. Others don't.

"We've even gotten to where the church wants you to give your donations online," says Hunter McEaddy of Charleston, S.C., who isn't particularly happy about it.

McEaddy talked with WTOP at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where he refuses to use the automated kiosks that so many other travelers casually queue up to use.

McEaddy says automation "is getting ubiquitous," even "in South Carolina where we ought to be more traditional."

A company that makes self-checkout systems, NCR Corporation is installing 10,000 self-checkout devices at more than 1,200 U.S. Wal-Marts throughout 2013.

Older generations may remember the self-service trend beginning with gas stations phasing out attendants to pump fuel.

Then Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) changed the way people banked.

Now the self-service trend extends even to parking lots with credit card exits and to food orders at convenience stores and gas stations, such as Sheetz.

A CVS pharmacy in Silver Spring, Md. has no cashiers. None. There only are self- checkout stations with a single worker supervising customer transactions.

Some people worry the trend may cost potential workers opportunities for jobs.

"I remember for a while they were even talking about self-checkout at the fast food joint," says Robert Libby of Alexandria, Va.

"How many jobs can you eliminate by these machines? And is it really a good thing for society?" he adds.

Some businesses are bucking the trend though and putting renewed focus on customer service.

In Maryland, Sniders Food and Chevy Chase Supermarket have workers who will bag groceries and load them into customers' cars.

And, one of the 15 largest banks in the U.S. TD Bank has launched a new ad campaign, "Bank Human, Again."

"Technology and automation are added conveniences, but shouldn't be an excuse to take away human options," TD Bank Vice President, Rebecca Acevedo tells WTOP.

What do you think of the self-service trend? Is it convenient? Or are companies asking us to do too much? Post a comment in this story, comment on WTOP's Facebook Page or use #WTOP on Twitter.

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