Grocery checkouts
Shoppers stand in a checkout line during Black Friday sales at a Target store in Culver City, California, US, November 25, 2016. Reuters/David McNew

Adelaide's Finest Supermarkets (AFS) has confirmed that it would not use self-serve checkouts in its stores. Paul Mabarek, AFS customer engagement manager, said that he could not recall a single customer asking to put self-serve checkouts. The company claimed that it would be a disaster for the business to install it in its stores.

Mabarek admitted that it was costly to maintain full size belted checkouts. However, he said that it was a cost worth bearing. He said that AFS nabbed extra customers from Woolworths and Coles because of its belted machines. “One of our marks of success is that we employ more staff, not less staff, because there’s a fundamental belief that if you improve your service and are in tune with customer’s expectations they will support you,” Mabarek said. “We’re not business naives, we know what the bottom line looks like and our policy is leading us to tremendous growth and our profitability is sound.”

Mabarek added that the company's stores has increased the number of its staff which was comparable to grocery giants Woolworths and Coles. “We have huge flows of Coles and Woolworths execs scratching their heads trying to work out what they do. They’ve been reducing staff but it takes focus away from customers and our view would be once you stop thinking about customers’ needs you get all tangled up and I can see that [Coles and Woolworths] are all tangled up — they don’t know where to go,” he said.

On the other hand, the grocery giants denied that they cut the number of staff by replacing them with self-serve checkouts. They said that excess staff were redeployed to other stores.

Mabarek said that AFS prices were competitive. However, he understood that customers come to the store for its atmosphere. It included the quiet hours where customers could shop in peace and the moments where live music was played in the store.

Meanwhile, a survey that NCR reported in 2014 showed that customers preferred DIY checkouts to skip long queues. They preferred it over belted checkouts as they wanted to avoid talking to cashiers. According to the survey, nine in 10 customers use self-serve checkouts. Ten percent of customers asked in the survey opt for the belted checkouts as they wanted to have interaction with the staff. Most customers who refused using the machines were older customers.

Woolworths announced that it would double the size of self-serve checkouts while Coles reduced it to beat supermarket theft. The latter conducted a trial that would limit the customers with 12 items at the checkouts.