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7 Things You Need To Know About Using Self-Checkout

We've all had at least one mortifying experience in the self-checkout lane, but with the help of these simple tips, you can make sure it was the last!

Some things in life seem highly appealing to begin with, only to lose their sheen once you actually experience them for yourself. And for the longest time, that was exactly how I felt about using the self-checkout machines at the grocery store!

The idea of quickly scanning and bagging my own items was very appealing at first. But when I actually attempted it, I found the self-checkout machine to be a lot more finicky than I had expected it to be, and it seemed to be fond of repeatedly alerting the attendant for unknowable reasons!

But I didn’t let that less-than-ideal first experience stop me from trying again. After a few more attempts, I had picked up a few tips and tricks that made it much easier and less anxiety-inducing to go through self-checkout!

In today’s blog post, I’ll be sharing 7 of those useful self-checkout tips for those who could use a bit of coaching on the subject themselves! By the end of this post, you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need to breeze through the self-checkout lane like a total pro. 🙂

7 Tips For Using The Self-Checkout Lane Like A Pro

1. Set Expectations

Want to use your own reusable shopping bags in the self-checkout lane? Be sure to communicate that to the checkout machine before you start scanning your items.

Look for a button on the checkout screen that says “I brought my own bags” (or something similar.) Hitting that button before you start scanning will let the machine know to expect the additional weight from your bags in the bagging area. (If the machine doesn’t know to expect that weight, it will likely alert the attendant and slow you down.)

2. Know When To Avoid It

Depending on the situation, self-checkout isn’t always the best option! For instance, you may want to avoid self-checkout when…

  • You’re alone and have a full shopping cart. It will take a while to scan and bag all those groceries on your own, so why not save yourself some time and effort by having a cashier scan them for you?
  • You have several coupons you want to use. Self-checkout machines often require an attendant to verify your coupons or enter them into the system for you. Even if you’re just buying a few things, that process may cancel out any time you might have saved by choosing self-checkout anyway.

3. Use The PLU Code

The most time-consuming part of using self-checkout is scanning your produce items, because most don’t have scannable bar codes. To scan produce items using self-checkout, you can look up items up by name, photo, or by entering its 4- or 5- digit price look-up (PLU) code.

Entering the PLU code is a big time-saver, and it’s usually displayed right on the produce sticker, label, or wrapping. (Experienced cashiers may have hundreds of PLU codes memorized, enabling them to blaze through produce items with ease!)

4. Don’t Skip Steps

When you’re scanning a large item, like a bag of pet food or a big box of soda, you may not want or need to put it in a bag. But that doesn’t mean you can just put it right back in your cart after scanning it, because the machine’s scale will expect the added weight.

Instead, you can do one of two things. The first option is to scan the item and set it in the bagging area without actually putting it in a bag. The second is to hit the “Skip Bagging” button and then put it back in your cart. Either option will help you avoid triggering the machine to call for an attendant!

5. Team Up

One of the best ways to breeze through self-checkout is to team up with a partner! It works best when one person is charge of unloading the cart and handing stuff off, and the other person takes the items, scans them, and puts them in the bagging area.

These roles keep both people out of each other’s way, and it makes it less likely that you bag things out of order and confuse the machine. With a little bit of teamwork and practice, you and your partner will be self-checkout professionals in no time!

6. Scan In Order

Scanning items in a certain order can make things go a lot more smoothly, both while you’re checking out and later on when you unload your groceries at home. So when it’s your turn at the self-checkout stand, scan your items in order of how you plan to bag them.

For each new bag, start by scanning a few larger or heavier items, then scan a few smaller, lighter items to add on top. You may also want to group similar items together in one bag, such as frozen foods or produce. A little planning can go a long way here! 🙂

7. Be Ready To Pay

When you’re on your way to the self-checkout lane, take an extra 30 seconds to make sure you know where your wallet is before you get there. No matter how quickly you scan and bag your items, stopping to dig around in your purse for your debit card is going to slow you down big time (not to mention the people standing in line behind you!)

Do you prefer to use self-checkout, or do you normally go to a cashier?


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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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