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5 reasons stores should give self-checkout the pink slip

Nov 16


Self-checkout kiosks are commonplace at supermarkets and big-box stores, but some of the nation’s biggest retailers are now rethinking their self-checkout strategy. Walmart is pulling self-checkout lanes from some stores altogether and bringing back more cashiers. So why keep self-checkout around at all? Here are five reasons why self-checkout should be fired in this week’s Five For Friday

#5: It’s not your job

You work hard all day, and running a register at your local grocer isn’t your side hustle.

When the self-checkout kiosks first rolled out back in 1987, developers said it helped to solve the biggest complaint from shoppers: long checkout lines. But as self-checkout became more prominent, those lines became formidable in their own right. Plus, you’re not a professional cashier, so it’s going to take longer for you to ring yourself up, and they aren’t giving you a discount for your labor.

People have also blamed the tech for getting rid of cashier jobs. Now when self-checkout lines are backed up, there aren’t enough cashiers around to open another register and get everyone out of there and on their way home.

#4: Produce pitfalls

You finally reach the self-checkout machine with confidence, thinking that while it’s not your day job, you’ve got a handle on the process.

First, you need to figure out how to scan your shopper’s card and get your reusable bags in the right place. But then you hit your next barrier, that big stack of produce. Now you’re forced to remember if it’s a shallot or an onion. And what if the sticker is missing? We’re going to be here for a while.

#3: Help! Human needed.

This has been a pretty harrowing experience so far, and it’s also Friday, so you need to unwind. Try to scan that six-pack of beer or large box of wine and you’ll hear the computer voice telling you to wait for assistance from a real human.

Hopefully, that real human isn’t too busy, otherwise the process is going to take even longer. AI facial recognition could correct this particular identification issue in the future. What could possibly go wrong?

#2: Technical difficulties

No matter how tech-savvy you are, you can’t deny that these machines are somewhat unreliable. Move an item you just scanned too fast or too slow and you will hear about it from the self-checkout voice. Now, you’re publicly arguing with a robot in the middle of the supermarket. That’s not even taking into account the items that aren’t marked properly, or that the machine is just having a bad day.

A survey in 2021 found that 67% of shoppers ran into issues at self-checkout. In the end, you’ll be waiting for the Great and Powerful Oz to help you out again. 

#1: Sticky fingers

Self-checkout, by its nature, is all about the bottom line. So it’s no surprise that theft is what’s driving stores to rethink it, not the brutal customer experience.

Straight Arrow News has a whole series on retail shrink if you’re interested in learning more.

A 2016 study found that self-checkouts generate a 4% shrink rate all by themselves, which is more than double the average rate. Researchers also claim self-checkouts can tempt upstanding members of society to turn into petty criminals. There are a lot of scanning tricks people use to get one over on stores, but we aren’t here to teach you these nefarious skills. 

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Simone Del Rosario:

Could not be more annoying. These days, some of the nation’s biggest stores, like Walmart, are rethinking the self-checkout strategy. But why keep ’em around at all? Here are 5 reasons self-checkout SHOULD be dumped in this week’s Five For Friday.

First of all, it’s not my job. When these things first hit stores all the way back in 1987, developers said they were solving the number one shopper complaint, long checkout lines. But self checkout lines are formidable in their own right. Of course it takes longer, you’re not a professional cashier and where’s your discount for scanning your own stuff? Self-checkout’s been blamed for slashed cashier jobs, now self-checkout lines are backed up and there aren’t enough cashiers to open another register to get us all outta here.

So you’re thinking. “I’m not a pro, but how hard can this be?” Famous last words. You gotta figure out how scan your shoppers card, get your reusable bags in the right place. And you’re off to the races until you hit that big stack of produce. Is this a shallot or an onion? A roma or Campari tomato? What if the sticker’s missing? Oy vey.

You’ve fought through up to this point. But now you need to unwind. Just try scanning that 6 pack of beer and you know what comes next. {Please wait, Help is on the way. You’re order contains an age restricted item.} Now ya gotta wave down a real human and hope it’s not a Friday at 5:30 when everyone’s trying to get their hooch. This one could be corrected with some AI facial recognition in the future. What could possibly go wrong?

No matter how tech savvy you are, these things can be somewhat unreliable. You know, when you move an item you just scanned too fast OR too slow. {please place item in the bagging area.} And now I’m publicly arguing with a robot saying “I DID.” Then there are those items that aren’t marked properly or the machine just doesn’t feel like working that day. And guess what? I’m back waiting for the great and powerful oz to help me out.

These machines were really all about the bottom line, so it’s not a surprise theft is what’s driving retailers to rethink it all. Hey, we have a whole series on retail shrink! Anyway, a 2016 study found self-checkouts generate a 4% shrink rate all by themselves, more than double the average. Researchers say self-checkouts can be a gateway tempting upstanding folks until they’re petty criminals. There are all kinds of weird scanning tricks people use, but I’m not out here trying to feed your addiction..

And then there’s Amazon Go, where you just walk out with stuff and it figures out how to charge your Prime account like magic. {Go ahead leave. Um. Just walk out. Here I go. Eeeeeh} That’s Five For Friday. I’m Simone Del Rosario. It’s Just business.

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