Retail Solutions - Robots are out at Austrian grocer

The march of technology has come to an abrupt halt in Austria, a state-of-the-art grocer kicked out the robots and brought humans back.

The sci-fi shopping experience at the Billa supermarket in Purkersdorf included speaking trolleys that pointed out bargains to customers, an automated checkout counter, and cleaning robots that politely asked shoppers to move out of the way.

However, real people have now replaced the robot cleaners, which crashed into displays of tinned goods, shoppers and trolleys carts. The management feared a lawsuit was imminent.

The speaking shopping carts have also been silenced, after shoppers began holding their hands over the speakers in the handles to avoid listening to the electronic voices.

'It was horrendous,' said Billa customer Iris Schaeffer. 'If I wanted to buy some cheese, the blessed things just kept blabbering on about how the courgettes were cheap today. It would still be blathering on about fish or meat when I was picking up toilet rolls.'

Billa's automated checkout counters required staff to check bags to stop theft.

'It was an experiment that has had a few teething problems,' said a Billa spokesman.