A most welcome move by supermarket chain Booths to ditch self-checkouts - Sarah Todd

Many years ago, this correspondent used to have a job that involved regular trips to the Red Rose county. More often than not the journey over yonder was done down the M62 but whatever the weather - sometimes snow - the way home was meandered via the A59.

High-flying publishing executives could hardly hide their mirth at this far from direct route back to our neck of the woods. But there was method in this apparent madness. For there in Ilkley, like a beacon guiding this weary writer, was Booths’ supermarket.

The relief on pulling into the car park was real. Enough distance had been put between the boardroom to finally drop down a gear and all that was standing in the way of the final leg of the journey home was the sheer joy of choosing something for a tasty tea.

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Those journeys haven’t been made for about two decades but, writing now, the metaphorical hug of the friendly faces in this extra special supermarket still shines bright.

A customer scans and pays for a bottle of juice from a supermarket at an automated self-service checkout terminal. PIC: AdobeA customer scans and pays for a bottle of juice from a supermarket at an automated self-service checkout terminal. PIC: Adobe
A customer scans and pays for a bottle of juice from a supermarket at an automated self-service checkout terminal. PIC: Adobe

How absolutely and utterly fantastic to read that Booths has become one of the first supermarket chains in the UK to axe almost all of its self-service checkouts as part of a strategy to promote good customer service.

Just two stores will retain their self-checkouts; but these can be forgiven as they are in the Lake District where tourist trade makes them extra busy. The rest will go back to using nothing but human beings, with the company explaining that they have realised what an integral part of their shopping service “warm Northern welcomes” are.

Hopefully others will follow in their footsteps and take heed of their many customers who expect this old-fashioned thing called service before parting with their hard-earned money. Surly self-service shop assistants, tartly tapping codes into perennially beeping self-checkouts don’t cut the mustard.

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When Sir Ken Morrison was alive his company’s checkout staff took some beating; as if they were on tenterhooks in case the big boss made one of his renowned spot checks.

Anyway, stepping away from the high horse but staying with supermarkets, what a masterstroke from the boss of Iceland, cancelling it's Christmas television adverts, saying instead it intends to spend the millions of pounds it will save on cutting prices.

While others follow in the footsteps of the likes of Marks & Spencer, spending millions on their festive marketing campaigns, Iceland’s executive chairman Richard Walker declared ditching this year’s adverts as a “no brainer”. He has vowed to redirect the money towards keeping prices down.

The conspicuous consumerism of festive spending is Vulgar with a deliberate capital V. Making the general public, especially those who haven’t any spare cash, feel like they are mistreating their families by not providing a feast fit for a King is downright cruel.

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There has to be some responsibility from these stores. Some children came to see our puppies at the weekend and their mother said how lovely it was for them to just sit on straw bales and spend half an hour away from keeping up with their friends. They had been writing letters to Father Christmas before they arrived and it must be a nightmare keeping hold of the purse strings when all around seems to be tills jingling.

At their age, a Pony magazine annual would have been well-received from the white-bearded one. Chances are, there would have been a feature on Yorkshire show jumping legend John Whitaker.

Just the other day an interview with him came out, in which he recalled how as a young lad he used to spend any spare time watching what everyone else was doing; learning from others.

He describes “the next generations of jumpers spending their down time at shows with their head in their phones, missing out on valuable lessons…” This is so true, not just among equestrians but other sports and the wider population. There really is nothing to beat watching and learning first-hand; apart from of course actually talking to those you admire.

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Talking of those that we admire, as somebody who is always among the first to criticise the BBC and its lefty leanings, it’s important to give credit where it’s due. The corporation’s coverage of the weekend’s formal remembrance events was truly very well done.

The interviews they had recorded with veterans and their families were beyond moving.

We must remember them; but also learn from them.