Home Uncategorized Customers at M&S bemoan new self-service tills, complaining they do not scan...

Customers at M&S bemoan new self-service tills, complaining they do not scan properly and are causing big delays

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Shoppers at Marks & Spencer are falling out with the retailer’s latest self-service tills – claiming that the units do not scan items or their loyalty cards properly.

The British firm, which turns 140 this year, has been aggressively expanding the use of self-checkouts across its food stores and even introducing them into its home and clothing sections as it seeks to make £150million in savings.

But shoppers complain the newest self-service units are the ‘worst’ of the machines introduced by supermarkets in recent years as an alternative to manned checkouts.

And even the social media teams working at M&S have acknowledged that their own self-checkouts are fussy, telling shoppers that some barcodes need to be held close to the scanners and at an angle in order to be detected.

Experts say the problem could see shoppers turning their noses up at Marks & Spencer – particularly given the chain’s reputation for quality and good service – and go elsewhere if it continues to rear its head.

Do you struggle with self-service tills? Email jon.brady@mailonline.co.uk 

A self-service checkout at an M&S Food Hall store. Shoppers have taken to social media to complain that the tills are not recognising items when they are scanned

A self-service checkout at an M&S Food Hall store. Shoppers have taken to social media to complain that the tills are not recognising items when they are scanned

M&S is in the process of rolling out an additional 800 self-service checkouts at stores across the country - not just in food

M&S is in the process of rolling out an additional 800 self-service checkouts at stores across the country – not just in food  

Social media has been flooded with complaints from M&S shoppers in recent weeks who say the self-service checkouts are frustrating to use

Social media has been flooded with complaints from M&S shoppers in recent weeks who say the self-service checkouts are frustrating to use

M&S chief executive Stuart Machin says the company is listening 'very carefully' to feedback on self-checkouts. The company says it is rolling out 800 new tills across stores regardless

M&S chief executive Stuart Machin says the company is listening ‘very carefully’ to feedback on self-checkouts. The company says it is rolling out 800 new tills across stores regardless

Andrew Busby, founder of retail consultancy Redline Retail, told MailOnline: ‘We talk a lot in retail about the customer experience having to be seamless and frictionless and one of the worst things you can do is make that awkward or difficult. 

‘And if this problem is widespread, which it appears to that it is, customers’ patience will be less and less. And this particular problem M&S is experiencing is simply putting barriers in the way of that seamless customer experience.

‘There’s no such thing as customer loyalty anymore – we are promiscuous in our shopping behaviour and habits. If we find something detrimental to that experience, we will go elsewhere.

‘I would not be at all surprised if customers started voting with their feet because it is not the experience they expect or deserve.’ 

Customers have taken to X, formerly Twitter, to complain about the difficulties they were having with scanning barcodes on the tills.

One shopper said the machines were ‘loathe’ to scan barcodes, while another said they were ‘as unresponsive as it gets’.

‘M&S have the worst self-service checkout of all stores,’ another customer said, adding: ‘The scanner is awkward and will not register unless bar code shown at partic(ular) angle. Takes ages.’

‘In general, I’m a fan of Marks and Spencer,’ said one Brit. ‘But, without doubt, the barcode scanners on the self checkouts are easily the worst I’ve experienced. Not limited to any one store either, just dire at all of them.’

A less diplomatic shopper opined: ‘There are self checkouts, and there are d****** M&S checkouts.’

Another added: ‘Worked on Tesco checkout at school so am pretty smug about my scanning skills and yet couldn’t get the b***** thing to scan anything tonight. Totally unresponsive.’

Self-service checkouts in an M&S store in London. Shoppers claim the latest versions of the tills are hard to use and rarely detect barcodes

Self-service checkouts in an M&S store in London. Shoppers claim the latest versions of the tills are hard to use and rarely detect barcodes

Other complaints referred to a difficulty scanning Sparks loyalty cards on the screens of mobile phones.

‘@marksandspencer can you please sort your self service tills? Tried with different phones and they just refuse to read mobile Sparks cards,’ one punter pleaded.

‘@marksandspencer your new self checkouts are (poo emoji). Bring back your old ones or sort these ones out because the delay from scanning something to it actually recognising it is a joke, there’s about a five second delay,’ said another. 

Even Marks & Spencer has acknowledged the problems that its self-checkouts appear to cause – popping up on social media trying to give advice to shoppers on catching the barcode scanner’s attention.

‘The phone needs to be held quite close to the scanner and at an angle,’ a tweet from the official M&S X account stated last week.

M&S chairman Archie Norman said last November that he feared frustrations with his own retailer’s self-checkouts were fuelling so-called middle-class shoplifting because shoppers simply gave up on the scanners and walked out without paying.

Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer, believes some shoppers feel less guilty about stealing using self-checkouts because they can be frustrating to use

Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer, believes some shoppers feel less guilty about stealing using self-checkouts because they can be frustrating to use

‘With the reduction of service you get in a lot of shops, a lot of people think: ‘This didn’t scan properly, or it’s very difficult to scan these things through and I shop here all the time. It’s not my fault, I’m owed it’,’ he said. 

Another retail expert told MailOnline ongoing problems with the tills would be doubly frustrating for shoppers because they expect better from M&S, which has long had a reputation for good service as well as sterling quality.

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at the University of Stirling, said that while self-service tills were popular with younger people making quick trips to a shop with a few items, the typical M&S customer may not be so keen.

Prof Sparks said: ‘Younger generations especially value being able to get in and out of a shop very quickly. 

‘But for some people it is about the expectation – do you expect to be treated that way in a higher end store like M&S?

‘It can add to the frustration if it doesn’t work, too. In another (lower-end) retailer you may be a little more immune to it, you might expect it. 

‘You need to think about the age profile of the customer as well. There will be frustration for them at how shopping has changed. You can imagine the frustration.’

M&S itself has acknowledged that the tills can be tricky to use, particularly with digital barcodes - telling one customer to hold her phone 'quite close to the scanner and at an angle'

M&S itself has acknowledged that the tills can be tricky to use, particularly with digital barcodes – telling one customer to hold her phone ‘quite close to the scanner and at an angle’

He added that loyalty to a historic brand like M&S would mean nothing to some shoppers if they had consistently bad experiences with the self-checkouts. 

‘We did a piece of work years ago on loyalty cards and how they built a sense of customers sticking with a retailer,’ he added.

‘But if it goes wrong and they have such a bad experience on such a consistent basis they will stop using them if it gets to a point that they get that frustrated.’

But alongside their barcode scanning woes M&S has been accused of discriminating against people in wheelchairs because they are positioned high up and at an angle towards the ceiling – making them impossible to use for seated shoppers.

In February last year, as the first versions of the new tills were rolled out, disability activist Marie Blackett took to social media to blast the design of the checkouts because she couldn’t see or reach the screen.

‘Making things less accessible for your disabled customers, as you have with your new self service checkout design, is unacceptable and legally questionable,’ she fumed on social media. 

However, M&S said in May it intends to install 800 more self-checkout tills in its food, clothing and home sections despite early criticisms of the new units.

It claims 70 per cent of food transactions are now self-service, either via self-checkout tills or using the scan and shop feature of its app.

But the move will also help M&S to make some of the estimated £150 million of savings it hoped to make over the last financial year. 

Stuart Machin, chief executive, said at the time the retailer was being sensitive to feedback and watching the reaction to self-checkouts ‘very carefully’. M&S has promised shoppers will always be able to access a manned till.

An M&S spokesperson said: ‘We want to help our customers shop in the most convenient way for them. Many customers choose a self-service checkout, but we know some prefer a little more help and so we also offer belted tills operated by a colleague in our larger stores.

‘However customers pay for their shopping we always have colleagues on hand across stores to offer help, and have invested in additional colleagues to provide an easy and convenient shopping experience for everyone.’ 

MailOnline has contacted Diebold Nixdorf for comment.





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