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Retailers reconsider self-checkout amid theft and service issues

By Jake Beardslee · January 16, 2024

In brief…

  • Major retailers reconsidering prevalence of self-checkout due to theft and impersonal experience
  • Customers appreciate self-checkout for small purchases but value personal interactions with knowledgeable cashiers
  • Problems like long lines and item limits reveal self-checkout limitations
  • Smaller grocers say friendly cashiers who know customers are service advantage over major chains
  • Retailers weighing pros and cons of self-checkout versus customer service interactions
Major retailers are rethinking reliance on self-checkout technology as limitations emerge and smaller grocers emphasize friendly cashiers as a competitive service advantage.  Mds08011/Wikimedia

Major retailers are reconsidering the role of self-checkout in stores after analysts have noted an increase in inventory losses associated with the technology. While self-checkout kiosks provide convenience for customers making small purchases, they also come with glitches like trouble scanning items. Retailers are weighing the pros and cons of self-checkout versus personal cashier interactions.

Hitha Herzog, chief research officer at H Squared Research, told “Good Morning America,”the technology that is powering self-checkout is also layering in other technology like AI that’s monitoring the customer, that’s checking out the products.” However, some customers complain of technical difficulties and impersonal experiences compared to cashiers, according to ABC News. Industry surveys show 30% of transactions in 2021 occurred at self-checkout, with 96% of food retailers offering the option, according to The Wall Street Journal. But problems like long lines and item limits reveal limitations.

Target is testing a 10-item maximum at self-checkout lanes to reduce wait times. And consumers told ABC News they appreciate self-checkout for small purchases, but still value personal interactions with cashiers who know them and can answer questions. Dollar General plans to increase employee presence to greet and assist customers, noting self-checkout doesn’t reduce the importance of friendly service.