Woolworths self-serve checkout 'issue' turning frustrated customers away

AI technology used in Aussie supermarkets continues to divide shoppers.

Self-serve technology at supermarkets is a contentious topic. The modern tech is designed to save customers' time with a promise to simplify the checkout process, however for many people self-serve checkouts are hell.

The checkout process has now become long and sometimes complicated with seemingly endless prompts and error messages. But a single feature in Woolworths' checkout system is turning some people away for good.

After a recent shopping trip to an unnamed Woolworths store, a customer expressed their frustration over the supermarket's AI tech which requires their trolley or basket to be empty before being able to pay.

Woolworths self-serve checkout
Some customers have expressed their frustrations over the Woolworths self-serve checkout detail. Source: Reddit

"Have you left items in your trolley or basket? Please wait for assistance" reads the message on the self-checkout screen in a photo shared online this week. But there's a tiny problem.

"I had an empty Coles bag in the trolley," the shopper wrote on Reddit alongside a photo of their screen, suggesting there were no more items left to scan. Instead, the post suggests the tech had wrongly identified a non-saleable item, unnecessarily calling over a staff member to assist.

Feature turns customers off Woolworths

"Not loving this feature. Bloke next to me had the same thing," the poster added. But he wasn't the only one who'd become frustrated during their Woolworths shop.

"Yeah, there’s a camera scanning your trolley. I once had a small bag from the pharmacy sitting in my trolley and got the same message when checking out. I’ve stopped using the self-serve checkout," one other shared.

"I've stopped using Woolworths over this very issue. The shopping centre [I go to] has a Coles and an Aldi and I just shop there instead," another admitted.

Woolworths checkouts.
Self-serve checkouts in Woolworths and other supermarkets continues to divide Aussie shoppers. Source: Supplied

Customers express 'privacy' concerns over checkout tech

But it was an issue of privacy for some who said the feature sometimes meant Woolworths staff would need to remove personal items from the trolley to bypass the on-screen prompt.

"The 'self-checkout supervisor' just leant over and picked up MY (empty) bag and opened it, no asking permission, just a grab of my personal bag!" one shared. They said they were "bloody horrified" and vowed "I won't be going back".

On the topic of privacy, another said, "their camera's can scan and store images of the contents of our personal bags' and asked, "Where is our privacy in all of this?"

"I definitely prefer the simplicity of the regular checkouts," concluded another shopper. "Throw your stuff on the conveyor, put stuff in the trolley, tap card, and you're done".

Front of Woolworths store.
Woolworths started rolling out AI technology in about 2020, and is now present in more stores across Australia. Source: Getty

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Woolworths for comment.

In the past, a spokesperson said the tech is aimed at reducing accidental mis-scans and making "shopping more convenient and seamless" for customers. AI technology has slowly been rolled out across Woolworths stores since about 2020. It also acts to combat theft, detecting if a customer deliberately scans an item incorrectly, or misses something entirely.

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