Gentleman at the checkout

Chat checkout

Head over to Migros for a chat

The Migros Gundelitor supermarket in Basel now has a chat checkout where customers can stop and talk to staff. This service, which is unique in Switzerland, is proving very popular.

Michael West

In October, one of the checkouts at Migros Gundelitor near Basel's central railway station began giving customers much more than change, Cumulus points and a receipt. On Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, experienced checkout staff have been taking the time to chat to customers for longer.

One of these is Saut Sirait, who has been part of the team at this neighbourhood Migros store for 38 years. "The chat checkout was an instant success," he says. "Older customers in particular appreciate this service. But young mums sometimes also stop by for a chat because they need a break and appreciate talking to an adult for a change."

Similar service available in two other countries

Chat checkouts are still a fairly new concept in Europe. Only in France and the Netherlands do two retailers offer their customers a comparable service, dubbed "Blabla caisse" and "Kletskassa" respectively.

The Migros chat checkout is a project of the Gsünder Basel (Healthy Basel) association and supported by both the Migros Basel Cooperative and the Migros Culture Percentage. Two volunteers from the association are also in attendance at the store, where they join in the chats and suggest other points of contact in the neighbourhood.

Migros chat checkouts are designed both to provide an easy way for people to chat and to combat loneliness in everyday life. After all, isolation is a widespread problem in Switzerland. According to a 2017 survey by the Federal Statistical Office, a third of the population often or sometimes feels alone.

What customers say:

I chat with the person at the checkout about Migros products, for example, highlighting the ones I really like and others that could be introduced.

Carlo Benne (83), retired businessman, Basel

It’s great that Migros chat checkouts exist because many older people feel lonely; a problem that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Heidi Haas (78), retired medical secretary, Basel

I appreciate being allowed to linger a while at this checkout, even if I’m just making small talk and chatting about the weather.

Stefan Frey (45), specialist bookbinder, Basel

As a customer, it’s nice to be asked how you are – especially when it’s meant genuinely rather than just being a polite phrase.

Ruzica Cvijetic (28), hairdresser, Binningen BL

I’ve been purposely shopping here every Tuesday morning ever since the chat checkout was introduced. It’s always good to have a little chat.

Alekko Sinniger (70), IT specialist, Basel

Photos: Jorma Müller