Consumers are increasingly favouring self-checkout because of the perception that it can be faster than using a cashier. Frustrations, however, with the technology persist.

A recent Wall Street Journal article — “Stores and Shoppers Agree: Self-Checkout Is Hard” — details how Walmart has quietly disabled or removed the weight sensors used to detect miss-scanned items because too many “wait for assistance” messages were being triggered, to the annoyance of shoppers. Walmart is making use of cameras in some cases as a solution.

Theft also remains an issue at self-service registers, with tricks such as scanning a less inexpensive item becoming popular. Retailers, however, typically have an aversion to having staff confront shoplifters directly.

A recent survey sponsored by weighing technology firm Shekel Brainweigh found that:

  • Nearly 80% of consumers needed assistance at least once during their self-checkout experience and almost 30% were pulled aside by store personnel to check their purchases.
  • 60% were more likely to use self-checkout if technology improvements (system simplification, automated entries and more accuracy) were deployed.
  • 25% said the fastest possible checkout would significantly improve their experience.

The Journal article noted that Walmart and Target are both installing more self-checkout stations with remodels, and Costco is also adding more due to labor savings. Retailers assert many customers favour self-serve’s promise of a quicker checkout, and the rise of mobile technology has led greater comfort with do-it-yourself shopping.

A new study from PYMNTS and USA Technologies — “The Future of Unattended Retail” — similarly found many consumers who use unattended retail channels, from vending machines and self-serve kiosks to cashierless stores, do so because such solutions are faster (cited by 49.4%) and offer shorter lines (34.7%). 33% percent like to take their time while shopping without talking to employees.

Yet another issue facing the expansion of self-serve registers is a potential backlash due to the loss of cashier jobs. Customers in the U.K. have threatened to boycott Aldi over its expansion of self-service checkouts. In Oregon, a federation of workers is proposing a ballot petition to limit self-checkouts to two per store due to concerns over lost jobs tied to automation.

Source: Retail Wire