Shaving seconds off the time each customer spends at the tills is an obsession for some retailers. But why, when the plastic bag police ruin the efficiency savings retailers’ IT departments have worked so hard to achieve?

Shaving seconds off the time each customer spends at the tills is an obsession for some retailers. But why, when the plastic bag police ruin the efficiency savings retailers’ IT departments have worked so hard to achieve?

I’ll come clean, this is one of my pet hates; and so I’ve been looking for a good way to have a little moan about how some retailers make it difficult for customers to get a bag to carry their purchases home. This week, after going to meet with Barclaycard to see a demo of how its new Barclaycard Freedom reward scheme is going to work at the point of sale, I think I’ve found it.

The managing director of the soon-to-launch reward programme Sarah Newman talked to me earlier this week about how larger retailers who are interested in being part of the scheme all want to know how much time it will add to a transaction at the till.

Newman has been able to assure them that the time is minimal – Barclaycard cardholders see their latest reward balance on the screen of the PIN entry device, and  simply have to say whether they want to redeem any of the balance and if so how much.

But I would say to retailers, why are you worried about transaction times when you are happy to slow down the whole purchase process with your plastic bag policies?

In many stores, I as a customer now either have to ask for bags or wait for them to be offered – and even then they are often only dispensed one at a time even when I’ve got a trolley-full of shopping.

When visiting retailers who charge for bags, this process is even more cumbersome.  And don’t even get me started on the retailer who charges for plastic bags that can’t even hold a couple of weekend papers without splitting.

The time taken to wean a few bags from the sales assistant is far greater than any clever new EPoS or payment system could ever shave off a retailer’s transaction times.

I’m aware there are many good reasons why retailers are taking an active role in trying to reduce plastic bag usage among their customers. And that’s their prerogative.

But it seems strange that retailers who are happy to up the time it takes to serve each customer by policing plastic bags, would then be worried by the few seconds extra it might take to administer a reward scheme giving genuine benefits to its customers at the point of sale.