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Victoria H-E-B: Self-checkouts are here to stay

Sept. 26, 2011 at 4:26 a.m.

Ten-year-old Hannah Boyd has difficulty getting the self-service station to read the bar code on a small cosmetic item. Nationally, stores are doing away with self-serve registers in favor of clerks and personal service. H-E-B has no plans to remove its self-serve stations.

Hannah Boyd knows what going through the self-checkout at H-E-B means - it means she gets to scan the items, and that's something the 10-year-old always looks forward to.

But some grocery stores across the United States are second-guessing self-checkouts, which were once viewed as the wave of grocery shopping's future.

Market studies cited by the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute found only 16 percent of supermarket transactions in 2010 were done at self-checkout lanes in stores that provided the option. That number is down from a high of 22 percent three years ago.

H-E-B's self-checkouts are here to stay, said Shelley Parks, director of the South Texas public affairs for H-E-B.

"We put self-checkouts in there as a convenience for the customers," Parks said.

Hannah's mother, Vivian Boyd, feels the self-checkouts are a nice option when doing some light grocery shopping.

"It's just faster," Boyd said as her daughter scanned and bagged several items. "It's quick when you have a few things."

The latest market study has some big grocery chains, like Big Y Foods, which has 61 locations in Connecticut and Massachusetts, phasing out these self-checkouts. Some Albertsons locations have also increased the staff on the traditional lanes because of the increase of customers wanting to go through those checkouts.

Shannon Gregurek sticks to using the traditional checkouts.

Gregurek, who was walking out of H-E-B with a cart full of items, said sometimes it's more of a hassle to go through the self-checkout.

"Every time I use the self-checkout, it doesn't really work," she said laughing. "Maybe it's me."

Meanwhile, Sylvia Rodriguez has at least 20 items, scans each item and bags it with no trouble.

Rodriguez has not switched from the self-checkouts since the option first became available.

Rodriguez goes to the groceries several times a week, and the self-checkouts provide for a quick in-and-out experience, she said.

"I like it better than standing in the lines," she said. "They're too long."

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