According to some retail experts, self-checkouts at big retailers like Walmart and Costco will soon become extinct. The big corporations are blaming it all on crime.
Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst, says: “I think we are going to see the demise of self-checkouts very soon.”
The concept of self-checkouts started popping up in the late 80s. But they have become increasingly popular since the 2000s, with big stores like Walmart projecting to be 65% automation by 2025.
The theory of checking out yourself has always generated mixed reactions among customers. Some prefer not needing to interact with employees, but others report frustration with technical failures and having to do the task themselves.
Since the pandemic, big retailers have been noticing a rise in retail crime. This has led to an increase in merchandise not leaving its spot behind the secure plexiglass doors. There have also been suggestions that self-checkout has only contributed to this increase in crime. Some retailers claim it helps customers get away with not paying for items.
Lempert notes that the rise of self-checkout was logical during the pandemic. It was able to not only reduce human contact, but it was also useful in addressing the drop in employees. The pandemic has blown over now, and both customers and workers are making it clear that such changes are not sustainable.
Workers at big retailers complain about how frustrating it is to deal with the rush of customers at self-checkout points. Meanwhile, customers claim that it slows them down, especially at stores like Costco that check receipts before you exit.
There are also cases of some shoppers facing stealing accusations at self-checkouts. These people have to face questioning by security staff, who then clear them to leave.
“It’s a horrible experience – you’re bound to make mistakes,” Lempert says.
In one instance, one customer almost ended up in jail for forgetting to scan a tube of toothpaste. In another case, a woman was wrongly accused of shoplifting. The case went to court, and she won a $2 million lawsuit against Walmart after proving she didn’t steal anything.
In the foreseeable future, Lempert says he thinks that technology that takes payment details when you enter and charges you as you leave will become more popular. And eventually they will replace concepts like self-checkout.
In the meantime, the pushback against self-checkout has borne results. Target recently announced it will staff some extra workers at checkouts ahead of Christmas. This will no doubt make things better, but it is not a permanent solution to the problems self-checkout poses to customers.
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