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Self-Checkout Is Terrible. It Will Never Get Better. It Should Die…Or Should It?

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With the world constantly being in a hurry, self-checkout has become a way for people to get in and out in a jiffy. Whether you’re shopping in supermarkets or popular retail stores such as Target, CVS, Walmart, and even Home Depot, self-checkout is offering consumers a human-interaction-free option for their check out needs.  

But with the many benefits that self-checkout offers to loyal shoppers, come a handful of cons that have left many questioning how positive the feature really is. Is self-checkout really as terrible of an addition to these businesses as many feel?

The Mixed Feelings Regarding Self-Checkout

I, for one, have mixed feelings on the phenomena known as ‘self-checkout.’ But for the most part, I tend to love it. When I say I’m guilty of always rushing around, I couldn’t be more sincere. Self-checkout assures that I get in, grab my goods, and get out of the store in record time – every time. (It’s getting really hard to keep beating my records!)

If I’m really being honest, I sometimes pretend I’m on a gameshow maneuvering down the aisles trying to beat my last visit’s checkout time. Supermarket Sweep anyone!? But let’s get back to the real topic at hand.

Self-checkout really does host several enticing benefits. Sometimes, I just love to have someone do the ‘dirty work’ for me. Swipe and bag my dog food, a bottle of wine, and whatever other oddities Target manages to suck me into buying. Not to mention – it’s sometimes nice to interact with a human instead of a machine.

I especially love self-checkout if I happen to be purchasing sensitive personal products. The option to check out by myself out is not only appreciated but convenient.

But resellers love the feature too. Self-checkout allows for an increase in efficiency and (in most cases) speed of checkout time. Aside from efficiency, self-checkout kiosks offer the option of space saving. Using minimal square footage, checkout stations take up less space, freeing up room for product, which overall, results in more money. (1)

NO MORE SELF-CHECKOUT!

Probably one of the most inconvenient features self-checkout stands neglect to implement is being able to purchase alcohol. While I understand why, for many, this is a total dealbreaker and just one of the many reasons people hate self-checkout.  

Alcohol purchases aside, like most things technology affords us in modern society, there tend to be some downsides to the technological takeover. While self-checkout can be super convenient, personalized, and speedy, the kiosks hold a handful of cons that have people irritated with their existence.

While retail businesses love the addition of self-checkout stations for their efficiency, they also love their cost-effective qualities. Reducing the need for multiple cashiers, resellers can utilize one cashier to monitor several stands instead of one. With fewer cashiers, there’s less overhead to pay.

But fewer cashiers means less opportunity for jobs, unless, of course, businesses choose to overflow with workers to ensure better customer service. And some retailers have done just that. While most stores are equipped with security systems and/or teams to prevent shoplifting, the fear of theft has increased due to self-checkout kiosks. (1)

Another downside to self-checkout is the lack of human connection. I believe that because we are often in such a hurry, we forget that there are other people going through the same crazy day as we are. If you prefer a more traditional “in-store” experience, the ability to interact with a cashier will always be more rewarding.

And then there are the technical issues. Nothing is more frustrating than technical malfunctions during a self-checkout transaction. When barcodes don’t work, coupons won’t scan properly, or when the bagging station doesn’t recognize the item you just placed upon it – your entire transaction comes to a screeching halt. The need for extra assistance often makes me wish I would have chosen the line with a real person in the first place.

Self-Checkout: Love it or Leave it?

There’s no doubt that self-checkout has a love/hate relationship with the masses. Unfortunately, these clever stand-up stations don’t show any signs of going away any time soon. Perhaps now we take time to enjoy the benefits and convenience they offer, while also taking a moment to appreciate the job of the cashier that may one day become obsolete.

On the occasion when I do choose lines with cashiers, I make sure to be present and engage with the person on the other side of the counter. After all, I appreciate them bagging my goods and giving me great customer service. As someone who spent all too many years in the world of retail, there is something to be said for a traditional shopping experience that ends with a, ‘Thank you, have a great day!’

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Danielle Boroumand

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