Employees at Clark's have noticed that checkout lines have become shorter with the addition of the new self-checkout machines along the grocery store's north wall. (Photo by Eva Thomas/Telluride Daily Planet)

If you’ve shopped at Clark’s Market the past two weeks, in addition to the looming animatronics Halloween man hung above the entryway, you’ve also noticed the new self-checkout machines.

Clark’s installed the four self-check machines on Thursday, Oct. 7, and had them running by that afternoon. Together, all four machines, including the control station, cost around $200,000. The store is one of the last Clark’s locations to receive the self-checkout machines.

“Clark’s company has been putting these self-checkouts in one store at a time for the better part of the last two years. Telluride ended up being one of the last locations on the list because we couldn’t figure out exactly where we wanted to put them,” said Mike Jackman, Clark’s store manager.

The four machines are located along the north wall just beyond the in-person checkout lanes. Jackman admitted it’s a tight fit.

“It’s pretty shoulder to shoulder, but we finally concluded that there is no good place to put it, except that wall. The current location isn’t the ideal location. If we were going to design around it (the machines) when building, we wouldn’t have set it up like that,” said Jackman.

The machines are perfect if you only have a few groceries, and everything can fit in a basket. This rings especially true during the “school lunch rush.” Locals know to avoid Clark’s around noon on weekdays because the store floods with high school kids who cross the street from Telluride High School during their lunch break. The self-checkout lines have made the school lunch rush a lot more manageable for Clark’s employees, explained Jackman.

The high schoolers, who come in for only a drink and a snack, not to feed their entire family, took to the machines right away.

“The kids are the best at using them. They’re so comfortable with technology. They took right to them and weren’t afraid of the machines at all. The day we put those in, they were on them like crazy. During the lunch rush, before the self-checkout, lines were backed up down the aisles. Now that we’ve added those self-checkout lines, we never see lines backing up like we did before they were installed,” said Jackman.

Outside of the high schoolers, Jackman estimates roughly 90 percent of customers favor the machines, and 10 percent are not fans of the new installments. That 90 percent, he added, are not necessarily people who use the machines, but rather people who are open to using them.

“People using the machines has improved a lot in the last two weeks. Usually, when customers do it with one of our employees once or twice, they are fine to do it on their own,” explained Jackman.

Kate Greubel, a Clark’s customer who took advantage of the self-checkout machines when the Daily Planet was covering the story, suspects people are apprehensive about the machines because “it’s out of their comfort zone, and it’s something they haven’t used before.”

Over the past two weeks, Greubel has used the self-checkout 99 percent of the time she has shopped at Clark’s.

“The process is so easy. They’re some of the fastest self-checkout machines I’ve used in a grocery store. I appreciate they don’t yell at me when I use my own bags,” said Greubel.

While the machines were not installed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing could not have been more perfect, said Jackman.

In addition to making the shopping experience more COVID-friendly, the machines help ease the blow the labor shortage has inflicted upon Clark’s.

“It certainly does help out. It came at a great time because we are the thinnest here at the store in terms of staff that we have been in the 10 years I’ve been here,” said Jackman.

Frequently stationed at the self-checkout control station is Clark’s employee Janet Basulto. When she first learned about the machines before the installation, she was excited because “we don’t have a lot of employees” and viewed the machines as helpful tools instead of a nuisance.

“It’s going to be a lot easier to manage tourists when they come,” said Basulto.

Jackman regularly shops at City Market in Montrose and uses self-checkout machines. He praises the ones at Clark’s for their accessibility and efficiency.

“The way our system is set up to search for items is far more friendly than the ones they use in City Market,” said Jackman.

The team at Clark’s encourages everybody to give the new machines a chance and reminds customers their employees can help guide them through the user-friendly software.