Why going to the supermarket is a frustrating experience.

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Beep. Beep, Beep…. That’s probably not only a sound you’re used to hear while watching a US-Talk Show. If you had the honour to grow up in a civilizised western country, like me in Austria, chances are you relate this sound with a shopping tour through a supermarket.

And my purpose with this article is not to offend anybody working in one by picking the title I chose or by what I’m about to say. What matters to me are things I’ve simply recognised, while shopping my everyday goods.

I can consider myself one of the few lucky people, who are living two minutes away from a renowned grocery store in the heart of Vienna’s 2nd district. And I am very thankful for that! This prevents me from losing a lot of time and energy in case I need something very spontaneously or when I forgot to buy one specific ingredient.

Also, I feel very blessed to live in this rich country and to have access to quality food so easily, when there are millions of people at the same time on this planet who were not born into similar circumstances, that have to fight each day against starvation.

Nevertheless, what’s always a challenge for me, is the contact you get with employees at these stores. Anyone who understands, that social dynamics in a big city are different than those in a rural area, can maybe relate that these employees have to deal with thousands and thousands of customers day in, day out. This makes it difficult to stay on a persistent energy level as a lot of customers want to receive information about a product, ask for the employee’s help, and they gotta deal with a lot of stress during work. It’s not a secret that the immense amount of impressions and stimulations in such a job lead to quick tiredness.

No wonder, that most of those workers seem to look drained, when I hit the store in the afternoon as usual. But my premise is not only to show up things as they are. There’s also another purpose for this article.

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Recently, I discovered for myself, that I no longer like the characteristics of old-fashioned stores, where the only way to buy your stuff is through dabbling through the whole hall, being overwhelmed by all these marketing impressions, supermarket psychology, products and services. In today’s times it’s already possible to order everyday food online. This rising market has huge potential in the future, as analyses show. The vast majority of grocery shopping around the world still takes place in traditional stores. But according to industry experts, this pattern may change very quickly during the next decade. More and more tech-affine retailers offer convenient grocery delivery options for their customers.
Like milk men or newspaper boys used to do in the past, retailers bring food items right to your doorstep. You can even announce the day and time that you’re likely to be at home and available, so the delivery man brings your order right then. In Austria, the number one tech-savvy deliverer which noticed that trend from the early beginning on is in my opinion “Billa”, a partner of the huge “REWE” food chain in central Europe. They did a lot of things right, when it comes to target-group marketing. Their online sector is already huge and they communicate the advantages of ordering food online to customers on a regularly basis.

Another big invention that will stir up offline grocery shopping is the self service cash-register. Most of the bigger companies already invested in such. They noticed the trend and already profit from that.
Two years ago, Amazon opened their first official supermarket in the US, “Amazon GO”.
At first it was only available for their own co-workers. It’s service was even more unique and innovative. Sensors in the store in Seattle registered who took which goods and at the end, the sum of the purchase was automatically booked from their Amazon accounts.

At a self-service cash register you can scan the barcodes of the products you collected in the supermarket and scan them on the terminal.
It’s also programmed to know your customer cards and coupons. If the product has no barcode, for example veggies or fruits, they have a fixed price and only need to be selected on the screen. I live not far away from a big Billa store that’s got 16 of these.

The store I mentioned earlier in my article, doesn’t have any of these installed already. This is another huge point why it gets more and more unattractive to me and other customers to shop there.
While our world tends to move faster and new inventions, start-up-companies and stores pop up every single day and destroy older businesses, it’s a stone-cold fact that only those survive in the economy that fit to certain trends. My motivation to buy things there is still because it’s very close to my door and I can save time. But what doesn’t save time is standing in line at a cash register that has to be operated by someone.
And what’s even worse to watch every time I go there is the faces of those exhausted men and women, who have to sit behind it all day and tell the same sentences over and over and over again to the customers, often without even watching them into the eyes and seeming emotionless while saying:

“HELLO!” — beep, beep, beep — everythings got to go fast because 20 people stand in line, and look frustrated because the line is still so long — resulting in stress for the worker — 13,45€, please” —” Thank you, good bye” — repeat.

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And most customers don’t even care about greeting, making a compliment or using that particular situation for a little joke-around with that employee who feels like and really is treated like a machine. And no human truly wants to work at a job where they are viewed as such.

I know a few guys and girls working in that business who are positive people and behave pro-active. They compliment the customers, make jokes and bring at least a few people to laugh. But on the long run, you need a bunch of nerves to keep that level of motivation for such a job, where it’s dependent on fortune if customers give something back, like a laugh, according to your friendliness. And second, the trends are moving quickly to online grocery shopping as well as the customer doing the job of the cashier via self service cash-registers, which could lead to massive unemployment in that sector within the next decade.

It’s not up to me to say whether that’s a positive or a negative development. Where jobs disappear, new ones get born. That’s what’s been happening since the rise of the industrial revolution occurred. In conclusion I can say that online shopping of food is a convenient way to save time and order from the comfort of your home. My opinion is though that stores won’t die too soon. The opposite is the case. While already many people order their food only online, the vast majority of consumers still buys offline.
But what’s certain is that the structure will change enourmously. Of course less employees are being needed for cashier activities, if self-service cash registers will be used more and more by society. Solutions might be found in restructuring those workplaces to other important job activities within the same business or company, preferably being activities with more meaning and more human than doing anything that could be done by a machine easily.

This topic is so huge and contains literally millions of different expert opinions and possible solutions. Here were my thoughts. You don’t need to agree if you have made other experiences.
Let me know what you think about it. I’d appreciate your feedback. Thanks for reading my article.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

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Thomas J. Hahn

Thomas J. Hahn

Bachelor of Arts in Business; Writing about Diet, Health and Fitness. 🇦🇹 IG: @tommysphysiqueupgrade