“No sooner had I got off the tram today than I found myself in Spar’s queue,” an anonymous student recently joked at EUR Confessions. It is a complaint the supermarket hears a lot, since the queues at the self-service checkouts tend to be very long. This had to change, felt on-campus Spar branch’s managing director, Erwin Binneveld.

For this reason, Spar will introduce a new payment system at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences on 4 April. The Spar branch at Nijmegen will follow suit soon afterwards. Rotterdam will have to wait a little longer, but by the end of 2018, ‘skipping’ will be possible at the Woudestein Campus, as well. “The introduction [of the new system] is a little trickier in Rotterdam because students are allowed to buy alcohol and tobacco there. This requires an additional ID-checking system,” Binneveld explains. “By the end of this year at the latest, all our shops will provide this service.”

Coffee or a biscuit or pastry, free of charge

Students who use the system will never have to queue at the cashiers’ desk again. On-campus Spar’s already existing app will contain a feature allowing students to scan their groceries, then pay for them using the Tikkie app. In order to encourage people to use the app in the weeks following its launch, app users will be rewarded for doing their groceries using the ‘skipping’ method, e.g. with a gift of free coffee.

The supermarket is not just introducing the new system because of the long queues. The system will also allow Spar to personalise its special offers. Says Binneveld, “So if you buy a lot of coffee, you may get a free biscuit or pastry the next time you buy some. And the app also knows, for instance, what you are allergic to. So suppose you scan a product to which you are allergic, the app will warn you.”

Trust-based system

Isn’t that a bit of a sensitive issue, though, the collection of such personal data? “Technically, it is no different from buying something in an online shop, or Google personalising the ads you see based on your search query data. And if you want us to delete your personal data, you can call us, and we will be required by new EU legislation to do just that.”

To make it a little harder for people to steal things, customers will have to scan a QR code upon exiting the shop. This code will appear on the screens of their phones following payment. Furthermore, Spar will perform spot checks in order to check whether customers are scanning all the items in their baskets. Other than that, the system will be trust-based, says Binneveld. “Research has shown that putting faith in your customers like that will actually result in their not stealing more than average.”