Why Some Shoppers Are Upset About Aldi Australia's Self-Checkouts

In Australia, some Aldi's customers have responded poorly to the grocery chain's decision to introduce express self-checkouts. Initially, when the company decided in the beginning of June to give the machines a trial run, they told 9 News that "anecdotal feedback from the first day of the trial was overwhelmingly positive with more than half of our customers opting to use the new self-checkouts." Much of the praise, they said, came particularly from shoppers who only popped into Aldi for a handful of items.

However, as Yahoo! News Australia reports, the introduction of these machines has also spawned some complaints. The main focus seems to be that, in addition to importing most of the goods they sell, Aldi will now deprive local Australians of jobs. Others took issue with the fact that some items from the Aldi Special Buys section, like a TV, proved difficult to scan on the machine. 

Aldi responded to these worries by saying that, in the new system, employees will still be needed to ensure the smooth operation of self-checkouts. Furthermore, they would be freed up now to help customers more than they would have if they were tied to the cash register.

Also, it should be noted, that positive reception for this new checkout option was still given by customers that appreciated they could now have more options to speed through what would often be a long wait at the popular store.

Aldi at first was hesitant about installing express checkouts

The biggest surprise about this development may be that Aldi had previously declined to implement a self-service option, and in fact stated that their traditional checkout system was better.

In 2016, a spokesperson for Aldi informed The Sydney Morning Herald that "Aldi's checkouts operate with industry-leading efficiency." So, they would not need to resort to such technology. When the chain did begin teasing the idea of express checkout lanes at the beginning of June, Robert Eichfeld, store operations director at Aldi Australia, told 9 News that the hesitancy in investing in the technology early on ensured that the final decision to do so would be done in a way that would not harm their low-cost model. This actually makes some sense. Investing in technology is expensive and Aldi functions by trimming away expenses that are then passed on to the consumer in budget-conscious deals.

However, the other possible reason for the switch can be found in a piece The Conversation published on self-service checkouts in general. Namely, they said, public opinion is heading more towards wanting express checkouts. "Shoppers also gain value from taking control of the transaction — being able to ring up their own goods and pack them the way they want," the article notes. "A sense of control over their own shopping can lead to greater customer satisfaction and intent to use and re-use self-serve technology." 

So, despite the complaints aired, Aldi may have little choice but to allow customers to ring themselves up. But hopefully they'll manage a happy balance of installing the machines and retaining cashiers to keep jobs and to appeal to customers that want the human interaction.