French supermarket tills where chit-chat is welcome grow in popularity

The ‘slow checkouts’ are for shoppers who want a more personal experience and aim to help tackle loneliness and isolation

People in a supermarket
Checkouts where people are encouraged to take their time and chat with the cashier are becoming more popular in France. Above picture is representative.

French supermarket chain Carrefour has launched what it calls ‘Blabla’ checkouts, where customers can take their time to chat with the cashier and have a more meaningful interaction.

The idea comes from the Netherlands, but is increasing in popularity in France.

Carrefour first trialled the service in 2019, with other retailers Système U and Auchan following suit after with their own versions.

The initiative was put on hold by Carrefour due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in mid-January this year it relaunched it.

The company is now aiming to have at least one Blabla till in each of its hypermarkets around France by the end of March, reported.

There are around 150 shops in France that currently have this type of slow checkout, the news site stated.

“The concept is simple,” Gaelle Prampart, head of Carrefour’s customer experience, said.

“The checkout is signposted in the aisle and each customer can choose to go through it. The idea is to take the time to talk to people who want to.”

There is no time limit, and while the checkouts are noticeably slower than traditional tills, customers are reportedly also conscious not to linger too long if others are waiting.

It humanises the process

The Carrefour in Épinal in the Vosges (Grand Est) has one Blabla till out of a total of 23.

Patrick, a local customer, told Franceinfo he liked the idea of it.

“I think it's good. It humanises things a bit more,” he said.

“I think it's probably more pleasant for the cashiers. It's a difficult job where people are indifferent, they hardly say hello. They are never happy. So I'd say it's more of a plus."

Corinne, who works behind the Blabla till in the shop in Épinal, confirms Patrick’s belief that it is more enjoyable for the staff.

“It's true that we're better considered at these checkouts,” she said.

“Frankly, I'm happy. When I arrive, I know I'll have a good day. And conversely, I also see the happiness in people when they come to the checkout.

“I don't notice the hours passing. I feel like I'm in my own little business. I feel good."

Going against the self-service takeover

The launch of the slow checkouts comes at a time when there are increasingly more self-service checkouts in supermarkets in France.

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of hypermarkets with self-service checkouts increased from 81% to 88%, Laurent Jamin, business development and sales manager of Nielsen TradeDimensions told Le Parisien.

This includes 99% of Auchan’s hypermarkets, 92% of Carrefour’s and 95% of Hyper U’s.

The percentage of supermarkets in France with self service tills increased from 39% to 43% in the same timeframe.

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