Jumbo, a supermarket chain in the Netherlands, is combatting loneliness with an idea from a simpler time.
It has been called the ‘kletskassa’, which translates to ‘chat checkout’.
The concept is simple: Customers can spend time with a cashier while buying their groceries.
It is a new initiative, but for readers of a certain vintage it will sound like return to the past, something recycled from a world before self-checkouts and express lanes.
Jumbo Supermarkten chief commercial officer Colette Cloosterman-van Eerd also heads up the National Coalition against Loneliness.
She said for many customers, doing the groceries is a social outing – a place to meet and chat.
“Many people, especially the elderly, sometimes feel lonely. As a family business and supermarket chain, we are at the heart of society,” she said.
“We therefore believe our stores can play a role in preventing and reducing loneliness.”
Come in for a chat
The chat checkout initiative came about in 2019 as part of that mission, backed by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.
A store at Brabant, in the country’s north, was used to test the idea.
One checkout line was dedicated to a slower experience.
Customers could natter about the weather and whatever else came to mind while paying for their groceries.
It was a big hit, particularly with older residents, but it was also a great opportunity for workers.
Ms Cloosterman-van Eerd said the company was proud of how eagerly its cashiers had taken part.
Workers had a genuine interest in helping their customers feel better by making “real contact” with them, she said.
“It is a small gesture, but very valuable, especially in a world that is digitising and getting faster and faster.”
The initiative was so successful, the supermarket chain has decided to expand.
Jumbo said the chat checkouts will be rolled out at 200 stores across the country by October 2022.