Booths: The end of self service tills cannot come soon enough for me - Christa Ackroyd

One of my late mum’s favourite stories was to tell me how as a baby in my pram she used to push me through Rawson Market in Bradford where a woman had a stall selling bent tins for pennies.

Mum used to tell me you would pick up one and leave with half a dozen.

That stall holder was a certain Mrs Morrison and her son Ken soon opened not one, but a couple of much larger stores, one near that very market and another near our home at Five Lane Ends. And so in our city the supermarket was born.

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From that moment on we always considered ourselves Morrison’s people. I am not sure they were even called supermarkets then. I seem to remember them being described as convenience stores. Well convenient they are no longer. And the experience is not always super.

Though they may hail from across the Pennines, this week I wish to congratulate Booth’s supermarkets for abandoning their self service tills which to me are the most inconvenient way to do your shopping ever thought out. Or rather not thought out.

I am often chasing my tail to cram everything in to my days – who said retirement would be calm and relaxing ? How did I ever have time to work ? A quick dash to the supermarket to grab something for lunch on the go was always just that, quick. Now it is not necessarily so. And it’s invariably stressful.

Firstly, because of self service tills there always seems to be more checkouts closed than are open and I refuse to believe I am the only one who has struggled with the ‘convenience’ of the alternative, the self service checkout. To have a bag or not? Press. No - it’s only a sandwich. Where to ‘place’ the said item, which always seems to lead to the suggestion I should place it in a bag in the bagging area, a bag I don’t have and don’t need. Then there is inevitably the bar code that doesn’t work so it flashes until someone with a magic tab hung around his or her neck comes to help ( eventually .. because by this time it’s not just my self service checkout which is flashing) and beep there you are and I am ready to start all over again, five minutes later than when I began, leaving me screaming inside that it would have been quicker to join the queues at the tills, those that are open of course. Surely I can’t be the only one for whom it never quite works ? Surely I can’t be the only person to have abandoned my meagre basket and skipped lunch out of frustration? Or is it simply I have the impatience of a gnat ?

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The clue or rather misnomer is in the title ‘self service’. What kind of service is that? And don’t get me started on store cards. They are the most inconvenient way to do shopping ever imagined when my travels mean I just want to stop off at the nearest supermarket and grab something quickly. The deals that are a pound or more cheaper if I present a card are fine if I always get my shopping from one destination. But I don’t. As a result I would need a purse or rather a phone filled to the brim with cards and apps just to get the offers that without are far more expensive. And so I don’t buy them. Why would I want to pay more than a supermarket can afford to charge me if I carried their piece of plastic? Even a petrol station I occasionally go to has started doing the same. And it grates on me.

A Booths spokesman said: "We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores." (Photo supplied by Booths/Carl Sukonik)A Booths spokesman said: "We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores." (Photo supplied by Booths/Carl Sukonik)
A Booths spokesman said: "We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores." (Photo supplied by Booths/Carl Sukonik)

Of course I know the store cards are there to find out how we shop and what we buy. But can’t the tills do that. Or how about asking me? But don’t pretend you are looking after my welfare by insisting I have a store card to get the benefit of a reduction or a few meagre points. I am not stupid. Nor am I gullible. Which is all good news for my local butcher or late night store which really is convenient. What’s more they have people to actually talk to and survive by the service they have on offer often selling at the same price if not cheaper. And I tell you what is really convenient – having a milkman.

So I can’t remember the last time I did a ‘big’ shop, as my mother used to call it, at a supermarket. People as well as the goods they sell should always be at the forefront of their business model. And when we do it ourselves it simply means they have to employ less people. And that is less people to pass the time of day with.

When my mum was widowed she used to walk to the supermarket almost every day. She used the trip, not just for the exercise though it was a mile away, but because no matter that it was a big store she knew everyone and they knew her. So much so that when she died they sent flowers. For many elderly people a trip to the shops is also a chance to interact with others. Self service is not what they went for. They buy offers because they are cheaper and they queue at checkouts to have a little human interaction. They also want the first thing to be said to them to be ‘Hello how are you?’ not do you have a store card.

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And don’t get me started on food waste where people living alone are forced to buy a bag of apples big enough for a whole family (usually in a plastic bag ) when all they wanted was a couple for the fruit basket.

So well done Booths. But more importantly well done to every butcher, greengrocer or corner shop that still does it the old way. I might even start making myself a sandwich to take on my travels with me. Now that really would make my mother proud.

In the true traditions of the supermarket this week’s column is a little bit BOGOF .. or buy one get one free.

The response to last week’s invitation to the then Home Secretary Suella Braverman to come with me on my regular homeless outreach in Leeds rather than describe living on the streets as a lifestyle choice was phenomenal. And what it did prove was that which I already knew, that the only thing she got right was when she described the British people as compassionate. You have shown that you are. But then I knew that. Suella is no more. But I want to thank her for what she has done. Her threats to fine charities for handing out tents have led to a swell in donations and focused the attention on the plight of rough sleepers.

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Next week my Homeless Street Angels are launching their charity Christmas single. I do hope you will download it to raise funds and in memory of a Home Secretary who either didn’t know or didn’t want to find out. Until then for the benefit of doubt take a look at this video ( It was recorded last week on our outreach after Ms Braverman’s crass comments. Listen to our friends who have no roof over their heads and tell me again that living in a doorway, with or without a tent, is a lifestyle choice. Stay safe and stay warm. And as mum used to say may we all count our blessings.