Coles has taken a bold step in Aldi's direction, introducing a feature formerly considered a trademark of the German supermarket giant.
The Australian retailer has begun installing packing benches at checkouts in hundreds of stores across the country as germ-conscious shoppers indicate a preference for packing their own groceries.
Amid heightened hygiene concerns among customers due to Covid-19, Coles said 30 per cent of shoppers were using packing benches already installed in 350 stores.
By the end of June, an additional 50 stores will be fitted with a bench, a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
“We know that some customers prefer to pack their own bags, that may be due to Covid or simply customer-preference regarding how their items are bagged," they said.
"In a growing number of stores, we have introduced packing benches at the end of the check-out to make this easier. Our team members are always available to pack customer’s bags or customers can use the additional space to pack the bags themselves."
Customers respond to Coles checkout benches
There has been some early backlash over the benches, with some customers upset over what they mistakenly believed to be an entirely new "format" where staff were no longer packing bags at all.
"After noticing the new 'pack your bags yourself' format, I was disgusted by then having my shopping hurled at me for packing," one shopper said of their experience at the Carrum Downs, Melbourne, store.
"The length of the new area is clearly too far away from the service person, so they feel the need to put in a 'Herculean' effort in order for your shopping to reach the packing area. Just awful," they wrote in a post on Facebook.
Another also complained about feeling overwhelmed while trying to keep up with the staff member sending her groceries down a "chute" towards the packing bench.
"Today I had to deftly divide and conquer the barrage of groceries sent down the 'chute' toward me, whilst trying to manage a crying five-month-old strapped to my chest and a grabby two-year-old in the front of the trolley," she wrote.
"It did nothing to achieve a faster service to myself or the person behind me as I took way longer trying to pack the bags so the items wouldn’t be rolling down my driveway when I finally got home."
Coles confirmed staff should still be packing groceries for customers, unless they indicated they would like to do it for themselves.
"We apologise to any customers who have not had a smooth experience with this new offer and will continue to provide feedback to stores," the spokesperson said.
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