By Natalie Wise
Are those alternately irritating and convenient self-checkout lanes a thing of the past? Some major retailers are yanking the machines from their floors while other retailers are expanding their self-checkout lanes.
Self-checkout has long been a source of contention between retailers and consumers. Some consumers hail the convenience of breezing through with their toothbrush and half gallon of milk, while others claim the machines take away jobs, malfunction regularly and actually take longer to figure out how to use than it takes to go through an Express Lane.
The debate still rages, but now it’s escalating between retailers. Some major retailers, like Walmart and Sam’s Club, are adding more self-checkout lanes. Others, like Hy-Vee grocery chains, Albertson’s grocery chains and Costco have or are going to pull all or some of their machines. There are even some stores that are fully automated, with no cashiers in sight.
In 2011, Albertson’s grocery chain pulled self-checkout machines from 100 stores in an effort to add more human interaction to the shopping experience in their stores. In June, Costco Chief Executive Officer Craig Jelinek announced he was removing self-checkout because his employees do a better job. This year HyVee grocery stores began dismantling their self-checkout programs as well.
It appears that chains focused on providing a pleasant customer experience are removing the systems, while chains focused on improving the efficiency of the customer experience and lowering prices overall by lowering payroll costs, automated checkout is the norm.
How do consumers feel about this? A study published by technology-company Cisco, based in the tech-savvy city of San Jose, Calif., relates that 52 percent of consumers would rather utilize a self-checkout system than wait in line. With 48 percent of consumers preferring human interaction, the result of the debate remains to be seen.
In the meantime, we may be heading towards two very different options: Fully automated warehouse-style shopping or fully-human, interactive shopping.