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Can Automatic Tills Make Mistakes?

Posted on 9th February 2017

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I have just returned from a quick shopping trip to Edeka, a supermarket in Germany. I am a little upset.

Edeka has a new and efficient system of checkouts. There are moving belts, each staffed by an operator who rings up the items. When that is done, the customer moves to the next stage to pay at a payment terminal. I usually pay with an EC card or a credit card, which is quick, and not prone to errors.

Today, I had only a small amount of cash with me, and wanted to use up the coins. The bill was only €2.47, since I had only bought two items plus I had some money back from recycling some bottles. I put €2.50 (a €2 piece, two 20 cent pieces and a 10 cent piece) into the payment terminal. The machine registered the €2 piece as a €1. That meant that I did not have enough change to make up the claimed shortfall, and had to pay (again) with a note, leaving me with a pocket full of change: exactly what I was trying to avoid.

I complained, and the manager of the checkouts came over. Basically, she told me that there was nothing to be done, that the automatic payment machines do not make mistakes and if they did the mistakes would show up in the end of day balance checks, which they don't. That last argument seems reasonable, but this has happened to me fairly often in the past, so I am fairly certain that the machines do make mistakes, and/or there is something amiss with their end of day balance checks.

It is not as if I mind about a €1 error, and I do accept that sometimes I might make the error, but not today (my change had been counted three times: once before leaving home, once while paying in another shop, and once before paying in Edeka). What bothers me is the attitude of the manager and her apparent absolute trust in her machines and processes: it doesn't matter if I complain because I am just wrong.

What I will do from now on is photograph my change using my mobile phone before dumping it into the machine, until I can prove that the machines do make mistakes, and get an apology from the shop.