A Check-In on Self Check Out

By Fiesta Farms

/Jun 24 2024

Convenience has a strong pull. Order dinner for delivery. Drive instead of cycle. Toss it out and buy a new one.

We know it feels better to feel the wind in your face as you cycle, prepare a meal for loved ones, or simply sew a button on a shirt. And yet, convenience can feel irresistible and even inevitable.

We need to remember that convenience is a choice. While it’s sometimes necessary to move fast instead of meandering, convenience makes our lives measurably worse. 

That’s the main reason why we dislike self-checkout. 

The Walrus just published an article called: The Scourge of Self-Checkout that says:

“If you feel like everything keeps getting worse and your quality of life is increasingly compromised by annoyances great and small, I’ll wager that started in the early 2000s, around the time retailers introduced self-checkouts on a wide scale.”

All the Lonely People

Toronto is one of the loneliest places in Canada. Folks in our city interact with other people less and have fewer close relationships. 37 percent of adults in Toronto report being lonely three or four days a week. 

A third of us are lonely 3-4 days a week. That’s awful news.

Loneliness is bad for our mental health – it’s linked to depression, alcohol abuse, sleep problems, personality disorders and Alzheimer’s. The World Health Organization says loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

There’s a (convenient) pill for loneliness, but we know the cure is right in front of our faces.

Small Interactions Matter Big Time

Research shows that small interactions, like those that happen when we talk about what to do with artichokes in the checkout line or engage in small talk with a store cashier, make us happier and healthier.

It’s something we know on an intuitive level and practice in our business, but we’re happy that science backs us up.

Lucy, a cashier at Fiesta Farms for 16 years, recognizes the value of small interactions:

“I’ve had customers tell me, ‘I left the house miserable and I had a conversation with you and it brightened my day.”

Lucy loves checking in with repeat customers and connecting with ones she’s not met before. 

Lucy sees COVID as a critical flexion point when people started becoming more insular and less interested in casual chit-chat. She sees this trend, which she thinks is troubling, among younger people who’d rather “look at their phones than talk to a cashier.”

Not to point fingers, but a preference for self-check-out is big among the younger set.

Transaction + Interaction can happily co-exist

Self-checkout may be faster (is it actually faster?), but in our rush to get things done, we’re trading the small, informal micro-interactions that make life joyful, pleasant, and deeply meaningful.

Psychologists call these kinds of interactions “weak ties” in contrast to close ties to family members and intimate friends. But, don’t be fooled by the name. According to the leading researcher from the UK:

“Such seemingly trivial interactions have been shown to boost people’s positive moods and reduce their odds of depressed moods.”

Yes, grocery stores are transactional spaces. But we want our customers to get more out of the shopping experience. We’ve created a business and a place where we want you to bump carts with neighbours or fellow food enthusiasts in the aisles and be greeted by staff you recognize and find helpful. 

We want you to see Fiesta as a place where you can and should engage with people. That’s why we’ll never (ever) have self-checkout in our store.

Chat in the aisles, talk while in line and shoot the sh*t at the cash. It may slow things down, but it’s the most efficient way to get your dose of vitamin P (People.)

Talk soon!