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Big Y bags self checkouts

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So long, self-serve checkout.

The Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y Foods Inc. on Wednesday announced it would do away with self-checkout lanes in all of its Connecticut and Massachusetts stores by the end of the year.

The family-owned Big Y, which is one of New England's largest independently owned supermarket chains, said its analysis of the self-checkout lanes - where customers, rather than a store cashier, ring through their own items - showed service was lacking.

"In the battle of service vs. self checkouts, service won," the company declared in announcing it will end self-serve checkouts at all of its stores using those lanes. Big Y has 61 stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts and employs more than 10,000 full- and part-time workers.

Locally, Big Y operates supermarkets in Old Lyme, Groton, Mystic and Norwich.

The grocer first introduced self-checkout lanes at its stores in 2003. Big Y plans to replace the self-checkout lanes with standard employee-staffed checkout lanes, as well as express lanes for those customers with fewer items. The company said it would add more staff to accommodate the increase in employee-staffed checkout lanes.

"Our self checkout technology could not deliver on the service needs of our customers," said Michael A. Tami, Big Y's vice president for information resources and technologies.

"In short, we were not able to provide the exceptional customer service through them that has made Big Y what it is today. While other chains are opting to replace cashiers with more self checkouts, we are adding cashiers to service more standard lanes," he said.

Big Y officials said other major grocery retailers have withdrawn self-checkout lanes, including Albertsons, which operates stores in the northwest and on the West Coast.

Big Y officials said self-serve checkout originated in the industry as a response to often long lines at major supermarkets. But after extensive research, the company now says the self-checkout lanes often take customers more time than the standard, employee-staffed lanes.

"Big Y concluded that their self checkout technology simply could neither improve nor replace the value of a friendly cashier who is able to personally help each customer in their lane," said the grocer in a press release announcing the end of self checkout at Big Y supermarkets.

The grocery chain is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

It was founded in 1936 by Paul and Gerald D'Amour, who purchased the former Y Cash Market in Chicopee, Mass., at an intersection where two roads converged to form a "Y."

a.cronin@theday.com

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