‘Chat checkouts’ for the lonely to be expanded to 200 supermarkets

Chat checkouts

Jumbo Supermarkets introduced ‘chat checkouts’ in 2019 in the city of Udenhout to help combat the scourge of loneliness that had become a serious issue in the area.

‘Chat checkouts’ are supermarket checkouts for customers who are not in a hurry and where the cashiers take a little extra time to converse with customers. 

The ‘chat checkouts’ are titled ‘Kletskassa’, a play on the word ‘klets’, which means chatty.

Supermarkets at heart of society

Colette Cloosterman-van Eerd is the Chief Customer Officer of Jumbo and also an advocate for the National Coalition Against Loneliness. She has been deeply involved in the Kletskassa program. 

“Many people, especially the elderly, sometimes feel lonely,” Cloosterman-van Eerd explained. 

Cloosterman-van Eerd said the company is “proud” that so many of its cashier staff enjoy taking a seat behind a Kletskassa. 

“They support the initiative, and want to help people, to make real contact with them out of genuine interest. It is a small gesture, but very valuable, especially in a world that is digitising and getting faster and faster,” she said.

Jumbo has initiated other measures to help combat loneliness, for example, some of its stores have ‘chat corners’ where customers can sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and speak to other members of their local community.

Loneliness increases risk of premature death

Loneliness is a growing problem around the world, including in Australia. 

Prior to COVID-19, loneliness was labelled ‘the epidemic of our times’, and although that moniker may not hold, it remains a fact that loneliness and social isolation are significant issues.

The risk of premature death associated with loneliness is similar to the risk of premature death associated with obesity and smoking.

Loneliness is defined as the feeling of being depressed about lower levels of social engagement. It’s slightly different from social isolation, which is when a person has minimal contact with others. 

Loneliness in Australia has worsened during the pandemic. In recent surveys, just over half (54%) of respondents said they felt more lonely than since the start of the pandemic. 

Living alone and not being in a relationship, factors that often affect older people, are significant risk factors for loneliness and social isolation.

Positive ageing advocate, Anne Ring, told HelloCare chat checkouts are a good idea that could have benefits across the generations, not just for older people. 

“I think it’s a great idea to make places within our community age-friendly, and supermarkets are an ideal location, as all ages go there. And if there is an opportunity for the ages to mingle, either simply by older customers chatting to the cashiers of various ages, or also possibly to others in a queue that is unrushed, that could appeal to older people … and to people of different ages,” she said.

“There’s a lot of research showing that loneliness is prevalent amongst all age groups, and so a variety of people may well be drawn to what might look like more relaxed and convivial checkout aisles, including some with young children, who could also serve as ice-breakers.”

A friendly and slower approach at the supermarket may also help alleviate some of the pressures people feel as we emerge from lockdown.

“Having an initiative like this now would be especially beneficial when – in many places – people [and especially older ones] are just tentatively emerging from the isolation brought about by prolonged lockdowns and finding their social feet again,” said Ring.

What do you think? Would you like to see ‘chat checkouts’ in Australia? Share your thoughts below. 

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  1. Great idea, mental health issues have increased over these last 2 years and this might just help to decrease this problem especially in the elderly who have been isolated and their only outings have been to get the groceries.

  2. I think this is a brilliant idea and would be a great initiative for our own supermarkets to follow, especially after lockdown has further removed social contact from so many people – not just older people, either. The idea would not only benefit members of the community, but could also prove to be a drawcard for the store and help train its younger cashiers to interact with people in a caring and engaging way that will stand them in good stead later on as they pursue careers in other areas. Having a chat corner set aside could also help stores try out goods and ideas with customers as well as meeting its aim of combating loneliness.

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