Tesco Shoppers Divided Over New ‘Magic Tills’ that ‘Track’ Customers as They Shop

The retailer is trialling new technology that can tell what customers have in their baskets, without needing to scan an item.

Tesco shoppers have been left divided after a new ‘magic’ checkout system was introduced. In a bid to eradicate irritating problems that can often occur when using self-service tills – including “unexpected item in the bagging area” – the supermarket giant has put in place a new system.

The retailer is trialling new technology that can tell what customers have in their baskets, without needing to scan an item. It works by all shelves being weighed, so all shoppers have to do is place an item into their basket or trolley and the system does the work for you.

Other aspects of the new technology include sensors and cameras around Tesco stores, which ‘track’ customers by watching items they put in bags. At the end, shoppers make their way to the self-service tills, where they are then given a run-down of everything in their basket to ensure it is correct, before being told the amount they need to pay, as reported by Birmingham Live.

Commenting on the new technology, Sarah Quiggin, head of store customer experience, said: “This is about cutting out some of the challenges around scanning. Sometimes there can be issues with certain barcodes and products.

“The alert for an ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ is a classic one that customers get frustrated about, understandably. With the ‘no-scan’ tills, you turn up to the checkout and you pay.”

According to The Sunday Times, the system has been implemented in a store in Hammersmith, London, following a trial of similar technology in Holborn in 2021. Speaking to the publication, one customer praised the new system, saying: “It was like magic the first time, because it came up on the screen without me doing anything. I was confused – but I use it every time now.”

In an interview with the BBC, another shopper said: “I like self-service tills. I like the ability to be able to move through at my own place. It suits me.” However, not everyone was impressed.

Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, Willhumphries asked: “70 cameras on a single aisle and weight sensors on every shelf. How much energy will all this consume, especially if it’s in every store, compared to employing checkout staff?”

Mr_Spiny_Norman claimed: “Total invasion of privacy, won’t use Tesco anymore.” AngelaJS0 added: “Do you want to be tracked while you shop? I certainly don’t.” Over on Facebook, Gina wrote: “And what about when someone picks up an item, walks around a bit then changes their mind putting it on any shelf?”

Natalie put: “Sounds a nightmare to me.” Lindsey penned: “No….some shoppers will love this but many won’t, I couldn’t care less if it wraps every item with a pretty bow on top for you I still refuse to use them…..we need more manned checkouts not more machines and both should always have the option of card or CASH payments.”

When approached for comment, a Tesco spokesperson said: “On the points mentioned on Twitter, on background our response is:

  • The cameras on the ceiling do not recognise faces or use any facial recognition technology.
  • The system tracks movements of a customer as an anonymous series of dots and lines.
  • We do not store the data from the cameras.
  • With Scan Go, you do not need to register with an app or have a Clubcard account.”

It comes after Tesco launched GetGo stores, which is a checkout-free shopping experience available in certain Tesco Express stores. Other retailers, including Amazon and Aldi have made moves in similar directions in recent years also.

The spokesperson added: “Tesco is trialling an exciting new technology innovation that means customers don’t need to scan their items at the checkout on self-service tills.

“Customers at the Tesco Fulham Reach Express will be able to just walk up to the scan-free checkout and it will magically present them with a list of the products they have picked up, so they don’t have to spend any time scanning each item. They can check the list and then pay in the usual way.

“There is no need to download or use the Tesco Grocery App to take advantage of the scan-free checkouts. The cutting-edge technology is currently only available at the single GetGo store in Fulham and is part of a range of checkout solutions available to customers to make their shopping experience easier.

“The three other GetGo stores are located at High Holborn, London; Chiswell St, London and Aston University in Birmingham. They all offer a mobile GetGo option, where customers just pick items, scan the app and walk out, as well as traditional self-service or attended tills.