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Why many Canadians don’t love self-checkout

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Brendan Best says self-checkout isn’t worth his time because something often goes wrong, forcing him to seek out assistance.

“I would not like to have that type of hassle, so I try to go through cashier lines,” said Best, who lives in Halifax.

“There’s nothing in it for me.”

A new grocery shopping study out of Dalhousie University suggests many Canadians have dabbled in self-checkout, but few have found reason to embrace the technology — which, along with reducing labour costs, is supposed to make shopping more convenient.

By the end of 2016 there were 255,000 self-checkout machines in stores around the world. (CBC)

Out of 1,053 people surveyed in October, two-thirds said they have tried the machines when grocery shopping. However, just 11 per cent of those shoppers report that they use them regularly, while the rest opt to use self-checkout only occasionally.

The survey’s margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Its principal investigator suspects uptake is low due to self-checkout’s “mediocre” technology.

“They’re gonna have to do a better job in getting the right technology in place if they want to capitalize on self-checkout,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University specializing in food distribution and policy.

Call the attendant

Self-checkouts debuted in North America in the early 1990s and are now a staple at many major Canadian retail stores.

Although the technology has advanced over the years, it remains a source of frustration for many shoppers.

Shirley Fourney of Saskatoon says she uses self-checkout only when buying a few small items because she finds the bagging area has limited space.

“The automated bagging thing keeps saying, ‘Put it in your bag. Put in your bag.’ Well, no, I didn’t because [it’s] 10 pounds of potatoes,” Fourney said.

“It’s just inconvenient.”

Brendan Best in Halifax says scanning snafus can also happen with small items.

“You have a thing of floss and you’ve already put it in the baggage area and it’s not reading it and then you’re going, ‘Sir, sir, ma’am, ma’am, I need help.'”

Brendan Best of Halifax says he only uses self-checkout occasionally because he actually finds checking out with the cashier is often faster. (submitted by Brendan Best)

Valerie Menard says she often experiences problems when scanning items without bar codes that require extra steps, such as produce that must be weighed or items from the bakery.

“Whenever I’ve tried to do it with more than a few items or produce or a baked good, I’ll have to get another staff member for help,” said Menard, who lives in Waterdown, Ont.

“It just doesn’t seem like it’s saving anyone time.”

She also finds scanning and bagging items a challenge when trying to keep an eye on her one-year-old son.

“Going through self-checkout isn’t practical. We have children to watch.”

Resistance is futile

Of course, not everyone has gripes about self-checkout.

Bob Munson of Nelson, B.C., says he uses the machines whenever possible to avoid getting bogged down in “unneeded chit-chat” with the cashier.

“I’m shopping. I’m not there to make friends,” he said. “I like to get the machine that does the job and just go.”

While Munson may be in the minority at the moment, professor Charlebois believes that will change.

In the age of automation, self-checkout is here to stay, he says. As the technology improves, he expects more shoppers will buy in — once they feel it truly makes their lives more convenient.

“Nobody wants to wait in line to buy food,” he said.

Already, self-checkouts are changing. Major global supplier NCR recently announced it was incorporating image-scanning technology that eliminates the need for weight-based detection of scanned items. That means no more need for that annoying automated voice reminding you to place your items in the bagging area.

At Amazon Go, customers can take what they want without checking out thanks to technology that detects when products are removed from store shelves. (Amazon)

Some retail experts expect people will flock to self-checkout when it looks more like Amazon Go, a cashier-less store created by online shopping giant, Amazon.

Thanks to technology that detects when products are removed from store shelves, Amazon Go shoppers take what they want and just walk out. 

Customers are billed via their Amazon accounts.

“Amazon Go is almost seamless,” said Toronto retail consultant Bruce Winder. “It definitely, I think, has great potential because I see the value for customers.”

Only seven Amazon Go stores exist so far, all in the U.S., but up to 3,000 more are reportedly in the works.

Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois suggests many shoppers aren’t embracing self-checkout due to ‘mediocre’ technology. (Radio-Canada)

Until such technology becomes mainstream, Charlebois suggests retailers could attract more customers to self-checkout by offering an incentive, such as a product discount.

“Why not reward a behaviour you want to see in your store?”

Best says an added perk might help him change his mind about self-checkout.

“At least I would be able to look at it and say, ‘What do I get from this? I get this discount.'”

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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