Feedback for Sainsbury’s

To the Sainsbury’s SmartShop team,

First of all, many thanks for trying to improve my shopping experience.

As requested in the registration email, I am sending you my feedback so that you might improve it further, though I suspect an email from little ol’ me won’t pack the necessary punch to make a difference. However, someone once said that ‘every little helps’ so it’s got to be worth a try…

I have been a strong advocate for the Fast Track scheme since its inception as I have found that, when my trolley is full to the brim, I breeze through the checkouts faster than Ocado’s employee of the month. When I only have a few items, I sometimes spare a moment to look over at the pained expressions on the faces in the self-service queue. They watch as a Sainsbury’s stalwart bounces between each machine like a pinball, desperately trying to suppress the cries of ‘unexpected item in bagging area!’ I won’t lie to you, Sainsbury’s SmartShop team, I feel positively smug when I have time for a pleasant chat with the human serving me because I have saved at least four minutes by avoiding a queue.

You can only imagine, therefore, the roller coaster of emotions I experienced when I walked into my local Sainsbury’s this afternoon (Linden Park Road, Tunbridge Wells) and saw that my beloved Fast Track system had been supplanted by an unfamiliar wall of gleamingly new, portable scanners. At first, I was excited: What is this new system? It looks sleek and modern… I can see myself carrying the scanner in both hands, slinking from aisle to aisle, with the James Bond theme tune playing through the PA. Upon closer inspection, however, I felt the fear set in: Why the need for change? Why succumb to the relentless obsession with touchscreens? And why, dear god, why do I need to create an account? For what am I registering? What could this little, hand-held scanner possibly want with my personal email address??

At this stage, it’s probably worthwhile mentioning that I had had a rather trying day, and that my emotions could well have been running a little haywire. It may have been an overreaction to ask customer services to turn down the embarrassingly loud *beep* of the scanner. It’s arguable that my ten-minute rant – about the pretentious and untrustworthy nature of any product with the prefix ‘Smart’ – was unjustified. It’s plausible, or at least possible, that my general dislike for change of any kind is irrational.

And yet, in this Digital Era, we are expected to accept that our data will be collected, stored, sorted and studied to predict the behaviours of our contemporaries. Marketing and advertising would be foolish to ignore this trick. I can accept, reluctantly, the inevitable march of digital evolution which brought us the ‘Smart’ scanner. I can even appreciate that for the vast majority of UK shoppers who have smartphones, the SmartShop concept is a convenient one. I can even understand, though it goes against my core beliefs (because let’s face it, there is no practical advantage whatsoever), the desire to introduce a touchscreen. But what I am struggling to comprehend and refuse to abide is the installation of self-service checkouts for SmartShoppers!

I concluded my shopping today, having cheered myself up immensely with a few bargains from the reduced section which were big on quality, little on price, and a Belgian bun from Sainsbury’s bakery (because it’s not just Morrisons that makes it), and triumphantly wheeled my trolley towards the fastest checkout of all – the Fast Track checkout! But alas, there was no such destination; only the humiliating queue-control-barriers which herd you towards your lonely self-service till, where a robot barks instructions and you desperately hope that there are no friends or neighbours nearby, watching you fumble through the ordeal.

A friendly Sainsbury’s staff member came to my rescue and showed me the correct distance to hold the scanner from the screen and where to stow the scanner afterwards. There’s so much to be said for a little human interaction! Then, as if timed by divine providence, the self-service machine spat my receipt out on the floor. Enough said. I rest my case.

I believe we should all ‘try something new’. Of course there will be teething problems, and of course the new system will take a little ‘getting used to’, and of course my feedback is somewhat tongue-in-cheek… but the point I’m hoping to make is that change for the sake of change isn’t always beneficial, and the importance of human interaction should never be underestimated.

This isn’t just feedback…this is Tunbridge Wells feedback.

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