LAST week in my local Aldi my friend and I bumped into a woman we normally see while shopping in Asda.

“I’m not going to Asda any more,” she told us, “They have got rid of too many checkouts - it’s nearly all self-service.”

My friend and I had noticed this too, and we grumbled about it. Our local Asda has some lovely staff and we enjoy having a weekly chat, albeit brief, with them. Most of them know us by name, and we them.

It’s a pleasant experience.

People may say self-service shopping is faster. I would disagree. It is rare for shoppers using self-checkouts to not have to call someone to help. I find them exasperating, especially as I often have money-off coupons which it often won’t accept, then I have to head to customer services and queue there, which cancels out any time-saving I might have made at the self-service.

My husband hates self-service with a passion and quickly loses his temper when the process grinds to a halt over a crumpled barcode.

It’s yet another example of artificial technology taking over, when many of us don’t want it. But there is hope on the horizon. Hot on the heels of a government decision to scrap the closure of railway ticket offices, comes another development that could spell the beginning of a fight back.

At a risk of banging the same anti-AI drum in yet another column, I felt the need to applaud the decision by Booths - which has stores across Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire - to axe most of its self-service tills in a return to fully-staffed checkouts.

The supermarket chain has become the first in Britain to do this, with its boss Nigel Murray saying “We like to talk to people.”

Booths found the self-service machines to be ‘slow, unreliable and impersonal’ and decided that ‘rather than artificial intelligence, we’re going for actual intelligence’.

Small inroads like this are important in preserving the human contact many of us want. ‘We listen to our customers - they want to speak to a real human,’ Booths said.

Booths’ supermarkets are relatively small compared to the ‘big four’ and more high-end. I can’t see Morrisons, Tesco and the like following in their footsteps, but you never know.

A second Aldi, not far from my home, has introduced self-service tills. I’m not sure why - their checkout staff process your goods at the speed of light - so there’s no need to juggle your fruit and veg, box of spanners and pair of wellies (that’s the beauty of Aldi, you never know what you might find) through self-service.

One thing I’ve never understood about self-service - however many tills there are, they seem to be overseen by just one staff member, who is usually running around like a headless chicken. If you have a problem, or if you’re buying alcohol, you’re often waiting several minutes for it to be sorted.

Self-service tills were introduced not for the benefit of customers, but as a money-saving exercise.

If you’re grabbing a sandwich and a bag of crisps in your lunch hour then it’s fair to say that, if it works well, self-service can be a quick way of shopping, but that’s about it. A basket load is rarely problem-free.

Now, you see people going around supermarkets with handsets, scanning their shopping like an ultrasound. I haven’t a clue how this works and how it gets checked for theft - if it actually does - but it’s clearly another step towards ‘do it yourself’.

Shopping can be a sociable activity. I like chatting to people in the queue for the checkout, I like talking to the till operator. DIY takes all this away. It can be very isolating. I take my hat off to Booths.