Tesco introduces no-scan 'magic tills' that can calculate bills

Tesco’s no-scan ‘magic tills’: Supermarket introduces sensors and cameras to calculate grocery bills – after Booths axed its self-checkouts

  • The firm has introduced the technology in a branch in Hammersmith, London 

Tesco is trialling ‘magic tills’ that mean shoppers won’t have to scan the barcodes on their items before paying and allow them to skip self-checkout queues. 

The technology brought in by Britain’s biggest supermarket chain will see a combination of sensors and cameras track customers as they move through its stores, automatically registering what they pick up as they go.

When they walk out the customer will then be given a list of items the store thinks they have picked up, which they can check is correct, before paying.

The system has been introduced in a branch in Hammersmith, London, following a trial of similar technology in Holborn in 2021, while other brands such as Amazon and Aldi have made moves in this direction in recent years.

It is the latest move away from customers having to scan their own shopping by the retail giant – Booths, another chain owned by the company, recently announced it was ditching self-checkouts and returning to staffed tills.

Staff stand outside a Tesco Express store in Holborn, London, in October 2019 when the company first trialled its scan-free technology

A customer uses the scan-free store in Holborn in October 2019 during a trial. The company has now introduced it in another store in the capital

Tesco first introduced the technology in what it calls GetGo stores in October 2021. There are now branches in Chiswell Street, Fulham and High Holborn in London, as well as one at Aston University in Birmingham.

Customers at these stores would have to check-in using an app, before picking up what they need and walking out without using a checkout till.

READ MORE HERE Revealed: Booths stores ditching self-checkouts as retailer returns to staffed tills – is YOUR local branch on the list?  

Similar systems have been used by Amazon in its Fresh stores, as well as Aldi with its Shop&Go stores, both of which also require apps.

However, the latest iteration of the technology means there is no need to download or use an app, with anybody able to walk in and use the store. 

Instead, cameras will automatically register people as they enter and track them as they do their shopping, the Sunday Times reports.

Tesco says the system does not use facial recognition, instead assigning customers a series of lines that make them look like stick figures.

This can track people through the aisles and is meant to work in tandem with sensors on the shelves that determine the weight of items that have been removed, in theory allowing the store to figure out exactly how much of each product the customer has picked up.

Tesco executives have referred to system internally as ‘magic tills’, the publication reports, with positive feedback from customers happy with the time saved at the checkout.

The trial of the latest version of the technology, which is taking place at a Tesco branch in Hammersmith, London, has had some teething problems with some customers being shown the wrong items on the screen when they go to leave.

The technology means shoppers may not have to scan their own items at self-service checkouts, like this one pictured in a London Tesco in 2018, in the future

At Tesco GetGo stores customers don’t have to scan their items but do have to scan an app when they enter the store (pictured). Shoppers going to branches trialling the new technology do not require an app

However, this can be remedied at the checkout, with shoppers able to add items the scanners may have missed, while staff must be called if an item needs removing from the list.

Tesco says data from the trial is being used to improve the process and service day-by-day and it will take customer feedback into account when deciding whether to roll it out further.

READ MORE HERE The British supermarkets SHUNNING technology: Booths ditches self-checkouts while Amazon backtracks on card-free payments – as customers hail the return of ‘a more personal and engaging’ shopping experience

Sarah Quiggin, head of store customer experience, told the Sunday Times: ‘This is about cutting out some of the challenges around scanning. Sometimes there can be issues with certain barcodes and products.

‘The alert for an “unexpected item in the bagging area” is a classic one that customers get frustrated about, understandably. With the “no-scan” tills, you turn up to the checkout and you pay.’

The move by Tesco comes after its sister brand Booths announced it was ditching self-service checkouts in favour of staffed tills, much to the delight of customers. 

The supermarket, dubbed the ‘northern Waitrose’, will axe almost all of its self-service tills with shoppers saying it will provide good job opportunities.

But other supermarkets are yet to follow suit – with Waitrose confirming they have no intention of getting rid of their self-checkouts, which have been in place since 2011.

A Waitrose spokeswoman told MailOnline self-service tills have been really popular after being introduced in direct response to changing customer behaviour. But they insisted they always have staffed options available.

Booths however said it feels customers get a better experience at manned checkouts and have released a list of stores which will see its self-service checkouts cut.

A map showing Booths stores which are getting rid of their self-service checkouts 

Booths has become Britain’s first supermarket chain to return to fully-staffed checkouts

Booths managing director Nigel Murray said staff at the northern chain ‘like to talk to people’

The chain – which has 27 stores in the North across Lancashire, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Cheshire – is the first in the UK to go back to fully-staffed checkouts. 

The upmarket firm said it has been finding the machines to be ‘slow, unreliable and impersonal’ and decided that ‘rather than artificial intelligence, we’re going for actual intelligence’.

Staff at the chain added that they wanted to ensure customers were served by people with ‘high levels of warm, personal care’.

All but two Booths stores will put staff back on the tills – with the exceptions being in the Lake District at Keswick and Windermere which can become very busy at times. 


As Booths puts workers back behind the tills, do YOU prefer self-service or staff checkouts?

As Booths puts workers back behind the tills, do YOU prefer self-service or staff checkouts?

Now share your opinion

Booths managing director Nigel Murray told BBC Radio Lancashire after the move was announced: ‘Our customers have told us this over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores they can be slow, they can be unreliable, they’re obviously impersonal.

‘We stock quite a lot of loose items – fruit and veg and bakery – and as soon as you go to a self-scan with those you’ve got to get a visual verification on them, and some customers don’t know one different apple versus another for example.’

He said there was ‘all sorts of fussing about with that’ and then as soon as someone puts alcohol in their basket, an employee has to come over to perform an age check.

Mr Murray continued: ‘We are a business that prides ourselves on the high standards and high levels of warm, personal care.

‘We like to talk to people and we’re really proud that we’re moving largely to a place where our customers are served by people, by human beings, so rather than artificial intelligence, we’re going for actual intelligence.’

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