Sunday 19 September 2021

And so the Americanization of Costa Rica continues

The self-checkout concept gives the customers the privilege of scanning and bagging their own groceries at the same price as the traditional cash out

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Rico’s TICO BULL – The Americanization of Costa Rica started a decade ago. Perhaps more. Intensified in the last five years, as the country goes America First more and more every day.

The self-checkout at the Masxmenos in Santa Ana. BTW, you pay the same price for your purchases for the privilege or scanning and bagging your own groceries.

I remember the day when Hypermas came on the scene. Then it was Pricesmart. Can’t remember who came first, but the big box store trend had arrived. The former had everything under one roof, the latter, smaller selection, membership cost, and wholesale shopping. For Costa Rica.

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With the arrival of Walmart, the trend to Americanization continued.

Take a look at Lindora, for example, a less than a kilometer strip that resembles a little bit of Florida. Then came along Avenida Escazu. Multiplaza took on the look of your typical North American mall.

I can continue. It’s all around us. Too many to list. For this article I will focus on the latest in the supermarkets of Costa Rica, at least the Maxemenos and Automercados.

That Americanization trend was more evident in supermarkets these last couple of months. At both the Masxmenos and followed by Automercado, the cashier no longer handled the credit/debit card. And with purchases under ¢15,000 colones (¢50.000 at Pricesmart), a chip card no longer required a signature. At Masxmenos and Walmart any required signature (on amounts over the 15K) is handled digitally.

What shook me was the recent addition at my local Masxmenos store: the self-checkout area.

Yup, no need to make like at the cashier, here customers get the privilege of scanning and bagging their own items.

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The reasoning is that no more making lines (unless there are many customers using the self-checkout), streamlining the shopping experience.

It has worked, I think, up north. Personally, when I visit Toronto, I refuse to use the self-checkout. Tried once, didn’t see the benefit. Don’t see the benefit here either. Or the need.

Generally, supermarkets in Costa Rica are a fraction of the stores up north. And with that smaller lines at the cash. But that is my opinion.

But before you herald the modern cashless, cashier-less, people-less concept in Costa Rica, the system is a little different.

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Like up north you do get to scan and bag your own items. And like up north, the machine adds up your total. But that is where the similarities end.

In Costa Rica, at the Masxmenos Santa Ana store, for example, you still need to interact with a human. You see, once you’ve scanned, bagged and the machine has tallied, you need to take the print out to a cashier for the final step, payment. And the possible revision of your purchase.

In my experience of scanning and bagging, I was not subjected to a review of my purchase. On that day there was no one else using the machine – I waited about 10 minutes for it happen, it did not. So I couldn’t compare my experience with others.

Was it maybe that I am a foreigner? An honest face? Or just that if I took the time to scan and bag I was likely to cheat the store.

I will never know.

Will I use the self-checkout again? Highly unlikely. One of the good parts of shopping in Costa Rica, at least at my local supermarkets, is the interaction with the people.

Working online from a home office, for hours on end, sometimes days without leaving the house, the trip to the supermarket is my highlight of the week.

What has been your experience with the trend to Americanize Costa Rica? Have your used the self-checkout? Post your comments below or to the Q’s official Facebook page.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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