Companies like Walmart and Costco are finally starting to rethink the idea of self-checkout lines, as “backlash” against it has grown, according to a new Yahoo Finance report.
British supermarket chain Booth’s is leading the way, removing them in all 28 of its stores. Managing director Nigel Murray said: “Our customers have told us this over time — that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores … can be slow, they can be unreliable (and) they’re obviously impersonal.”
“Some customers don’t know one different apple versus another, for example. There’s all sorts of fussing about with that and then the minute you put any alcohol in your basket somebody’s got to come and check that you’re of the right age,” he added.
The report says that at Booths, customers often incorrectly identified the fruits and vegetables they were purchasing at self-checkout stations. Additionally, buying alcohol via self-checkout encountered difficulties as it required staff intervention for age verification.
Initially introduced in the 1980s to reduce labor costs, self-service machines transferred the work from employees to customers. They gained popularity in supermarkets in the early 2000s, especially during the pandemic, as they allowed shoppers to avoid close contact with others, according to the Yahoo report.
However, retailers are now reassessing self-checkout due to its association with increased merchandise losses, both from accidental errors and deliberate theft, a phenomenon known as “shrink.”
This issue has been escalating, with some attributing it to shoplifting and advocating for stricter penalties. The contribution of self-checkout systems to this problem is also recognized.
A study across the U.S., Britain, and Europe revealed that retailers with self-checkout lanes experienced about 4% loss, more than twice the industry average. Issues contributing to this include products with multiple or non-scannable barcodes, and the need for customers to manually enter codes for items like produce and meat, leading to accidental or unnoticed errors in scanning.
Customers have exploited the minimal supervision at self-checkout aisles, engaging in theft through tactics like not scanning items, substituting expensive items with cheaper ones, using fake barcodes, or even scanning everything but leaving without paying, the report says.
To curb losses, stores have enhanced security at self-checkouts, such as installing weight sensors. However, these measures often lead to more errors and customer frustration, requiring staff assistance. In response to these challenges and customer feedback, some stores are altering their approach:
Walmart removed self-checkout machines in select New Mexico stores.
ShopRite discontinued self-checkouts in a Delaware store following complaints.
Wegmans scrapped a mobile app for scanning and paying for groceries due to losses.
Costco, noticing that non-members were misusing membership cards at self-checkouts, has increased staffing in these areas.
Costco’s management acknowledged that the increase in shrinkage was partly due to the introduction of self-checkout systems.
Recall, back in October, Zero Hedge contributor Quoth the Raven wrote an article called “The Degradation And Humiliation Of The U.S. Consumer”, critiquing both self checkout counters and how companies have marketed for inflation.
“After 20 more minutes, I reached a self-checkout station so cramped that I couldn’t comfortably maneuver my cart,” he wrote. “When an associate suggested moving my cart, I politely responded that as long as I was doing the job of checking out my own groceries, I’d place my cart wherever the f*ck I wanted.”