No matter how great the prices and the products might be, if the checkout is a disaster, stores risk losing customers, market experts say.
"Your checkout experience, that's the last thing you have at a grocery store," said David J. Livingston, a supermarket consultant based in Waukesha. "If you're giving the customer an unsatisfactory exit experience, they might not come back."
"The last impression a customer has is when they check out their groceries," he added. "If you can give the customer a good experience, they are most likely going to come back."
How self-service plays into that is a matter of intense debate, even within grocery stores themselves.
"We don't believe that self-service check lanes provide superior service," said Pat Fox, president of Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly stores in southeast Wisconsin. "We believe very strongly in human interaction."