Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Scanning and shopping - moral dilemmas of our time!

I find shopping in a supermarket to be a minefield of ethical decisions. Fairtrade, organic, seasonal, local, high welfare? Should I be shopping there in the first place, when the high street is in trouble? And how do I balance ethics with my budget? Now there is a new moral quandary to add to the list - do I scan and shop?

In my area the battle for the high street has been lost; I have no local greengrocer, fishmonger, butcher or baker. It takes me 15 minutes to walk to a very busy T*sco Extra, which stocks just about anything you are likely to want to buy from tomatoes to televisions. In the last few weeks they have introduced a new system which I tried out this week. I was issued with a hand-held scanner, and as I did my shopping I scanned each item and packed it straight into a bag. When I had finished I used a self-service till to pay - no unpacking and repacking at the checkout.

I quite enjoyed it, the scanner beeped satisfyingly at each item and showed me how much it cost and my running total. I did a weekly shop for a family of four in just over an hour. So far, so good. Now for the moral quandary - there is obviously less need for staff with this system. An assistant poked around in my shopping to make sure I wasn't making off with a leg of lamb, but she was in charge of eight tills rather than one. So am I depriving people of work? Am I contributing to the dehumanizing of society? Or am I pining after a world of friendly shopkeepers which no longer exists, and should I bravely face the future, scanner in hand? Should I stop worrying so much?!


  1. We did this over fifteen years ago when Safeway introduced it into their Glenrothes store, and it was amusing for a short time; it helped with the packing of the shopping as I packed as I went along, but it was a hassle to be the one they occasionally decided to check, and have to unload all my packed shopping on to the conveyor belt and then repackage it all! I have a tendency to think twice and put things back on the shelf occasionally which I found a pain as I couldn't easily "unscan" something back then. It didn't take off amazingly well back then, and I don't think I'll get too excited about it this time - I do most of my shopping in Aldi, Lidl and the Co-op and I don't think any of them will be doing it soon.
    As for your ethical dilemmas, I wouldn't worry too what you can to support the local businesses, but if they aren't there already, you can't do much. I am trying to get the school to use a local embroidery company in the town rather than a subsidiary of Tesco for the school logo'd shirts, but I seem to be losing my battle....but I keep trying!

  2. Oh my....the questions. I admire your thoughtfulness. While new technology may reduce clerk positions, perhaps it opens new positions in the tech field, Lesley. Just a thought... :)
    Gracie xx

  3. I should think that there must be a small army of gifted individuals employed in designing, manufacturing, maintaining and improving scanners. These items are never strong enough for the demands of housepersons who do far more work than non housepersons imagine. Everything soon breaks down, especially when it is not the personal property of an enthusiastic owner. Time will tell, and the reason for the sudden withdrawal of these high tech gizmos will give us another thought provoking blog to muse upon.

  4. Hi Lesley I agree with the last speaker who says that time will tell on this one - I wish we could stop the world and slow down everything. As always Lesley you have given us all something to think about. I remember being concerned when the self service was introduced as a lot of my lovely mature learners worked there prior going to university but they were all kept on so maybe things are not too bad. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Have a wonderful weekend Lesley, big hug


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