Fairway’s New Self-Checkout Kiosks are the Buzz of the Neighborhood; Some Approve While Others are ‘Flummoxed’

By Amelia Roth-Dishy

Fairway Market’s flagship location on 75th Street and Broadway has installed a fleet of self-checkout kiosks— and they are already a hot topic on the Upper West Side.

The machines, which were inaugurated on Tuesday in advance of the Thanksgiving shopping rush, have replaced the market’s popular “Express Lane,” which purportedly expedited checkout for customers with 10 items or fewer (though the experience was often more akin to riding the 1 train than the 2/3.)

Reactions have been mixed. One Upper West Sider wrote to the Rag, “This new system is bewildering and difficult! All around me customers were flummoxed, and the number of staff assigned to helping people check out added up to plenty of people who could be cashiers instead.”

The self-checkout line was quite long on Sunday afternoon, snaking through the store and stretching beyond the entrance. Shoppers did not seem to realize that the lines for regular checkout, in aisles 7, 8, and 9, were still operative. Nonetheless, customers seemed generally satisfied with the new machines as they left the store.

“It went very well,” said Anne, a customer who used a kiosk to purchase a few items.

Another shopper who had just utilized self-checkout remarked to the Rag in passing, “It’s fine. They’re very helpful.”

“You can’t please everybody,” Michael, an assistant store manager, said. “Since we put it in, some people, they’re happy about it, they love it, and some people, they hate it, but it’s about technology today and we did this to try to speed up the process,” he added, noting that at least 2,000 customers per day have utilized self-checkout since the machines were set up.

According to Michael, all Fairway locations have transitioned their express lanes to self-checkout lanes. They have no plans of automating the rest of the registers.

Norma Riccucci, an Upper West Sider who lives near the store, found the self-checkout transaction process to be smooth. “My only concern is demand for labor going down,” she said. “How many people did you fire to put in these machines?”

While many Fairway customers have approached Michael this week to ask the same question, he insisted that no employees lost their job as a result of the self-checkout transition. “We didn’t fire anybody,” he said. “That was not the intention behind all this.” The checkers without stations now have other positions in the store, primarily in roles that support the functionality of the machines themselves. On any one shift, Michael said, “we have at least three people to do override and to make the line flow smoothly.”

Indeed, a number of employees roamed the lane and assisted shoppers with figuring out the new technology or conducting manual override for miscounted items.

“It’s making everybody’s life easier, especially this week, obviously it’s Thanksgiving week,” Michael said. “We both, customers and us, are gonna benefit from self-checkout.”

The Whole Foods location on 97th and Columbus Avenue also transitioned a number of their checkout stations to self-service kiosks in October as part of a company-wide initiative. The Rag has reached out to Whole Foods, which is now a subsidiary of Amazon, for comment.

FOOD, NEWS | 52 comments | permalink
    1. Ish Kabibble says:

      First time I saw one of the self-checkout kiosks, I was actually excited! What fun!! But, I can certainly see how the less technically-inclined might find it a tad off-putting. That’s why there are options….

    2. Citygirl says:

      It isn’t faster. It is slower. Even customers who are comfortably using the equipment are still not as fast as the experienced cashiers.

    3. ben says:

      I often shop at the WFM at 97th and Columbus and almost always use the self-checkout. Consistently fewer people in line, sometimes none at all. Shame machines displaced workers for the job but really it’s been like this since the industrial revolution.

    4. Kathy says:

      Please let us know how the union weighs in on this. I shun anything that takes away a New Yorkers job and loathe the machines for that reason. To whit: What is Fairway’s REAL reason
      for installing these?

      • Ian Alterman says:

        Did you read the article? The manager specifically stated that no employees were laid off, and were simply given other tasks in the store.

    5. Crs says:

      I found the process to be difficult and the support to be inadequate and understafffed. It took them 15 minutes to get me my receipt and the produce and olive bar selection was not, in my opinion, clear.

    6. Susan Cohen says:

      many many former employees were laid off since the new owners took over
      nothing is the same quality esp the bakery
      the old time workers were fabulousI would love to speak to Michael to help him understand what the community needs

    7. Annoyed as Hell says:

      Beware! The system is full of glitches. Had to have the helper correct the same problem 3-4 times. Better go to the humans!

      • Sandy says:

        Agreed. I am very comfortable with self checkout but my blueberry bar code was ‘’not recognized’. I held the line up while I waited for someone to enter the manual code. Many others struggled or were stuck on an item. The line was out the door.

        I understand COVID is airborne, but I question whether it is COVID friendly to have so many people touching the same screen. Also a terrible time to lose a job in the event they let anyone go.

    8. Beth says:

      Although self checkouts being added is smart, they cut down the counter that was for Mobil checkout on their APP to just enough space for 1 person instead of 3 at a time.

      • Curious says:

        Does Fairway still use their app? That would be great! I somehow thought it wasn’t available anymore. Hope I’m wrong 😀

        • Paul on W 67 says:

          Yes, you can still use the app to check out; I last used it on Thursday. I’m so clueless, I didn’t even realize they installed self-checkout, but I did wonder why the app checkout station had been downsized. I was pleasantly surprised that, after weeks of having to wait for a bag check every time, my app checkout went quickly and smoothly this time

    9. Steven says:

      I was surprised to see them when I was in there yesterday but it worked out pretty well. The employees who were assigned to help people were very nice & helpful in their assistance. The machines were fast & worked great. The only thing I had to ask someone to come help me with was with fruit that had be be weighed. She showed me how that is done & it was pretty simple & will be much easier the next time I’m there. My only concern was if employees lost their job from it, so to read that is NOT the case makes me happy. I think once we all get used to them it’ll be fine. Maybe they can add a few select express registers with cashiers to accommodate the customers who would prefer that. But so long as nobody lost their job, I say keep it.

    10. ST says:

      It was the same at WFM. Workers valiantly work during the worst of Covid to ensure that we could have groceries, only to lose jobs to brand-new self check out machines when the worst was over. Disgusts me.

    11. Peter says:

      I don’t for a moment believe you didn’t fire many cashiers. I am thinking of boycotting Fairway and using Citarella exclusively.

      • charles becker says:

        Fairways and Citarella are not substitutes for each other.

      • Ben says:

        Hope you like cramped space (especially in the era of COVID) and paying 8 dollars for a box of cereal that goes for 3 dollars elsewhere (true story).

    12. Josh P. says:

      I hate them.

    13. Josh P. says:

      I think they’re terrible!

    14. Joyce R. Weidenaar says:

      Just one more “improvement” since the takeover by ShopRite. Merchandising is pitifully unattractive, amount of inventory available is insufficient, placement of items is mystifying and the quality is ratcheting down. Our memorable Fairway, even with its maddening qualities, is a thing of the past. They should be honest and get rid of the name since this ain’t no Fairway.

    15. EGF says:

      Once again, the false outrage of the UWS residents is laughable.

    16. JOSEPH INFANTE says:

      WHO IS DISINFECTING THE MACHINES AFTER EACH USE FOR CIVID-19 ?

      • Chris says:

        Disinfecting machines is just paranoia – you arent going to get it off a surface unless you are snorting stuff off the machine. Look at the research. Also most people wash their hands when they get home. That is plenty

      • Anna-inez says:

        You know what? Carry disinfectants or when you get home wash your hands and your groceries. You are basically passing food through and not germs. I suggest if you do want to disinfect the area, bring your wipes. I usually don’t worry about that, as I wash everything anyway. Let’s not overdo this.

      • B.B. says:

        ATM machines aren’t disinfected nor sanitized after each use. Neither are MTA vending machines, self-serve parking meters, laundromat washers/dryers and scores of other things. This was before covid-19 and certainly not now either.

        If such things bother be proactive and bring your own wipes or wear latex gloves…

    17. Craig - I Don't Use Self Check Out. says:

      Pass…. Self check-out is slower than the very experienced cashier. I dont know fruit codes and search is PAINFULLY SLOW.
      I’ll shop elsewhere if the cashier lines are too long.

      • Boris says:

        I have caught many mistakes made by cashiers who either do not know correct produce codes or make mistakes keying them in. When I’m doing it, don’t have to look over their shoulder.

    18. UWSPhotochick says:

      Next thing you know, they’ll expect customers to stock the shelves.

    19. Peter says:

      Before a major holiday such as Thanksgiving is not a time to install these machines! I saw a lot of major confusion with little help from store personnel.

    20. Robin says:

      Good comment about disinfecting but other places with self-check outs (like CVS) don’t clean after each customer so it’s use at your own risk.

      On another Fairway issue, the price per pound of the cut cheese wedges is obscured by a stamp that says “Fresh Ground Today,” so there is no way to know price per pound without calculating it mentally or on your phone. This has been going on for weeks, if not longer. I mentioned this to a floor manager who said that corporate is aware of it and trying to fix it. “A computer glitch.”

      ?!?

    21. Anna-inez says:

      You know this is a real advantage…preferable to waiting in line and very efficient. I’m not sure why it would be such a hassle for some people. I mean, Sorry, What’s to be “flummoxed about”? You just whisk the food through Pop in your credit card or cash – bag your groceries and you’re off. How much easier can it be? Most supermarkets, drugstores, etc. now have these self service options and they are great. If you don’t like it, get in cashier line. Cashiers are waiting.

    22. Dp says:

      Most people should be opting for the Mobile Checkout app, if they have a smart phone. It is so much faster and easier than self checkout. Scan while you shop and then it only takes a few seconds to checkout. Wish other grocery stores had this style of checkout. It is so easy.

    23. Anneke says:

      People here in the Netherlands are checking out like that already for years. No problems.
      Like everything new, people complain.

    24. B.B. says:

      For all those moaning about “experienced cashiers” are faster miss a few points.

      Yes, if allowed to get on with their work most cashiers could speed through ringing things up, it is the customers that slow down lines.

      A transaction that should take five minutes or less into something much more. Cashier says one word; “hello”, and that starts some people off talking about all and sundry events of the day and or their lives. Then they insist on price checking every other item in cart (how much is this, is this on sale, why isn’t it on sale, how much is it if I get two….).

      Rite Aid installed self service kiosks at most stores and it has been a blessing. In out done and dusted in minutes. This instead of picking up items (less than four minutes), then spending ten or more minutes waiting to pay.

    25. SNY says:

      Fairway is now asking their CUSTOMERS TO DO THE WORK – instead of their cashier staff.
      It’s short-sighted strategy that, of course, replaces Labor with Automation in order to cut expenses. Impersonal and inefficient.
      As a Senior, the added stress to do my own express checkout of groceries DOES NOT ENHANCE THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE. And It’s not fair to ask me to therefore go on the regular long, snail moving line.
      Of course cashiers were let go.
      The old Express Line (with baskets, no carts) was great. And fast moving.

      • B.B. says:

        Don’t know what to tell you; self-checkout isn’t going away, and in fact is growing as business seek ways to control labor and other costs.

        It is a mixed bag however. While yes there will be reduced employment for cashiers; many retailers of all sorts have a growing need for people to work with online sales.

      • Ella says:

        I totally agree with you. The old express lane was quite fast. Also, how do you get the senior discount at these machines?

      • Boris says:

        That’s what happens when you think businesses should pay a $15/hr minimum wage without taking into account the consequences. Add to that all the other employee-related costs and businesses will adopt new ways that are less employee intensive. But automation also creates new jobs for people who work for companies that design, sell, and maintain automation devices.

    26. Dr Rochira says:

      I used these in Europe (Switzerland) all the time… several years ago already. The US is finally catching up!

    27. Chase says:

      just wish it was 24 hours again.

    28. B.B. says:

      Self checkout is growing for many reasons. Customer acceptance is growing, and it also saves retailers from issues that come with having registers that accept cash.

      No drawers to be counted out, no cashiers with “shortages” in her/his drawer count, etc….

      It is not easy to find persons who can be “register trained”, and to be frank also can be trusted to handle cash.

      Ever increasing minimum wages means employers naturally will seek to reduce employee costs.

      http://www.viewfindergv.com/?p=9391

    29. Joe says:

      i used it just the other day and it could not have been easier. The staff were very helpful and even seemed a little happier than in months past.

    30. B.B. says:

      By NYC local law new owners of supermarkets are *MUST* keep current employees at least 90 days. There are other protections as well.

      https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/about/grocery-worker-retention-act.page

      Thus highly doubt Fairway cashiers were impacted by move to self-check out other than being reassigned elsewhere.

    31. Ella says:

      I hate these self-checkout systems. I stopped using them in CVS because they frequently have glitches. Was disgusted to see them installing them in Fairway.

    32. Timmy says:

      I hate these things, and refuse to use them at Whole Foods on 97th & Columbus even when the employee charged with the task tells me to go to the self-checkout where there is no line. People need jobs, and humans need the secondary relationships afforded by such interactions! Jeff Bezos (and ShopRite) can afford to pay people to ring up and bag groceries, as can other corporations displacing humans with this unnecessary automation.

      • Boris says:

        You’re entitled to an opinion about whether you like automation. But you’re not entitled to an opinion about a business owner’s capability to maintain certain types of employees. Make decisions about how to spend your money, not someone else’s.

    33. chuck d says:

      I love using the self-checkout at Whole Foods. I save about 25-35% off my bill that way.

    34. Tuileries says:

      I would miss interaction with cashiers at Gristede’s—not so, Fairway, and for that matter, and most especially—Pioneer.