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A Tale Of Two Albertsons

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It's the Tale of Two Albertsons: It was the best of self-checkout. It was the worst of self-checkout.

In a bizarre demonstration of the emotionally charged differences in retail and consumer attitudes about self-checkout, Monday (July 11) saw an enthusiastic statement from Supervalu's Albertsons stores promising to keep self-checkout in all stores. This comes a week after Albertsons LLC pledged to remove self-checkout from all of its stores. Both actions were done under the heading of improving customer service. This follows a confirmation from Kroger that it is experimenting—at one location—with a self-checkout-less store.

The fact that two retailers, which both own one-half of what years ago was a consolidated Albertsons chain, take divergent views on a checkout technology is not surprising. But the ferventness of the opposite positions, coupled with the intensity of the consumer love/hate for the self-checkout—note the emotionalism in the comments on both the links above—is impressive.

This started last week, when we ran our story about Albertsons, which prompted a series of stories to link to our coverage, including Time, MSNBC, the Drudge Report and CNET. (You see what us StorefrontBacktalk readers get to see before anyone else?)

Quite a few newspapers picked it up from there. That prompted Albertsons LLC to take bows for its pro-customer position. At the same time, though, Supervalu's Albertsons got deluged with calls that they need to stick with self-checkout. On Monday (July 11), Supervalu Albertsons issued a statement: "Since this story broke last week, our customers have called us and we learned first-hand that they want and appreciate the convenience of self check-out lanes."

Moral of the story: If you want to boost customer service and make customers happy, you absolutely need to remove all of your self-checkout. Either that, or add a lot more. One of those approaches should do the trick.