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HomeGeneralCalifornia Safeway Stores Ditches Self-Checkout Machines Amid Rise in Shoplifting

California Safeway Stores Ditches Self-Checkout Machines Amid Rise in Shoplifting

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Self-checkout machines in a store
Source: Pinterest

Technology advancement is excellent, but it often takes decades of tweaking and upgrades for a new technology to work flawlessly, and even then, there is always the possibility of a glitch or failure in operations. Shop owners have had to learn the hard way with the self-checkout machines that have gained popularity in the past couple of years. 

Upon their initial introduction into retail shopping, many people, customers and entrepreneurs alike, were excited by the possibilities they presented. Consumers looked forward to faster checkouts, and shop owners thought it was a great alternative to staffed checkout lanes. Nobody expected the side effects that quickly made themselves known, and now, many stores that integrated those machines have been getting rid of them. Safeway is the latest store to do that, and it has a good reason for making that decision. 

A customer interacting with a self-checkout machine
Source: Pinterest

Complaints About Self-Checkout Machines

Upon their inception, consumers believed self-checkout machines were the answer to the long wait times they had to endure with staffed checkout lanes. At first, this was true, but in recent times, those machines have become unreliable, and the problems they give shoppers have given them a bad reputation, so much so that many consumers would instead join a queue than risk using one. One prevalent reported issue includes system breakdown, which leads to longer waiting times and grossly unhappy customers.

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Bay Area’s Safeway Has Ditched Its Self-Checkout Machines

A Safeway Store
Source: Pinterest

Many stores have stopped using self-checkout machines in response to how customers have responded to them. One of the latest businesses to do that is Safeway stores in the Bay Area of California. However, their most significant reason for getting rid of the machines has more to do with shoplifting than malfunctions. According to a statement from the store, the move is an attempt to contain the increasing theft of goods to ensure employee safety and create a more inviting environment for consumers.

ALSO READ: Walmart Set To Release Pride Merchandise While Target Holds Back

Theft In the Bay Area Stores Has Gone Up 

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A sight from California's Bay Area
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Safeway stores are not the only establishments in the Bay Area experiencing increased shoplifting. The activity has become a pandemic, with many stores getting hit. This has pushed most to devise ways to stop this or at least reduce it. One shop, Fredericksen Hardware & Paint, has even gone as far as making its employees accompany customers while they shop.

Dollar General Has Also Ditched Self-Checkout Machines

A Dollar General Store
Source: Pinterest

Safeway is the latest store to remove its self-checkout machines, not the first. As 2023 ended, Dollar General, a popular retail store, also revealed that it would remove the machines in the following months. It also stated similar reasons for taking such a step, including machine malfunctions and how easy it makes shoplifting. 

Walmart Also Wants Self-Checkout Machines Removed

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Walmart's logo on a building
Source: Pinterest

Another big brand that is getting rid of self-checkout machines is Walmart. Its chief reason is to expose customers to more personalized and efficient shopping services. Of course, this implies the machines have not lived up to expectations. The announcement also came after retailers realized there was an increase in theft following the integration of self-checkout machines. 

POLL—Should the Government Implement Stricter Penalties To Combat Retail Theft?

People Who Prefer Self-Checkout Machines

Three women of different races sitting next to eachother smiling and holding different devices
Source: Pinterest

While many shoppers now shy away from self-checkout machines, there are some who prefer them. A healthy percentage of these people reportedly belong to the Gen-Z generation, and they have become so fond of these machines because they make it easy for them to shoplift items. This has further justified the disuse of the technology by many retailers. 

Dangers Of Shoplifting

A shoplifter in action
Source: Pinterest

Shoplifting is not dissimilar to pests ruining farms. The increase in the act has caused some stores to lose so much money they have had to close down. Those who have not shut down are struggling with restocking, which has caused shoppers who want to purchase goods to go elsewhere. This rise in item theft has caused many stores to integrate anti-theft policies, some of which make things even harder for legitimate shoppers. 

Self-Checkout Machines Affect Sales

Boys with checked out goods walking away
Source: Pinterest

According to Grabango, a company that provides checkout-free tech for stores, self-checkout machines cause a shrink, leading to a 3.5% loss in sales. A shrink is an unexplained loss of inventory, and the most prevalent form of it is the partial shrink. This is a form of shoplifting in which the perpetrator buys some goods and steals the rest. 

Self-Checkout Machines Versus Cashier Lanes

People milling around in the self-checkout section of a store
Source: Pinterest

Self-checkout machines cause at least 16 times more losses than staffed checkout lanes. This was discovered after 5,000 transactions from self-checkout machines were examined. Nobody knows if these thefts happened by accident or were deliberate shoplifting, but they are another reason stores have been ditching the technology. 

ALSO READ: Florida Governor Slams Walmart, Target, for Their “Woke” Approach to Retail Theft

California Legislation’s Likely Response To Self-Checkout Machines

A gavel with a dark background
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The Californian government has recently considered restricting the use of self-checkout machines in stores to address the increase in shoplifting. The legislation is still just a proposal; however, if it becomes law, stores will have to have at least one employee overseeing two self-checkout machines, and customers will only have access to them if they have no more than 15 items in their cart.

Poor Communities Are More Susceptible To Shoplifting

A shoplifter in action
Source: Pinterest

One reason the self-checkout restriction law is being considered is to protect poor communities that are more likely to experience shoplifting. The law aims to create a safer environment for both staff and customers; however, it has to be passed first. 

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