Death of Self-Checkout, Walmart Charges for it in Some Locations

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun7,2024 #finance

Theft and complaints are taking a toll on self-checkout. Now, Walmart (WMT) wants you to pay $98 a year for Walmart+ for the self-checkout privilege at some stores.

Retailers Scale Back Self-Checkouts

The Wall Street Journal reports Retailers Scale Back Self-Checkouts to Curb Irritation and Theft

Attention, shoppers: Retailers are rethinking your cashier job.

Store operators are modifying how they use self-checkout stations in a bid to boost their bottom lines and improve the shopping experience for customers.

Some retailers are pulling kiosks out of stores as a way to keep a lid on theft. Others, including Target (TGT), Dollar General (DG) and the regional grocery chain Schnucks, have limited how many items customers can bring to self-checkouts to avoid bottlenecks and alleviate headaches for staff.

Schnucks now limits its self-checkout lanes to 10 items or fewer. While the primary intention is to improve customer service and checkout efficiency, Simon said the company expects some reduction of theft as well. “This item limit will help us maintain our costs while keeping the prices lower for our customers,” he said.

About a fifth of people who used self-checkouts said they accidentally took an item without paying for it, according to a survey of 2,000 shoppers last year by LendingTree. Some 15% of self-checkout users admitted to stealing an item on purpose.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said it removed self-checkout lanes and replaced them with cashier-staffed lanes at locations including stores in Cleveland and Shrewsbury, Mo. When checkout access is limited, some stores are designating self-checkout lanes for Walmart+ customers, who pay a membership fee of $98 a year.

In 2022, Dollar General said self-checkout was so successful and popular with customers that it tried making some stores entirely self-checkout. A year later, CEO Todd Vasos pulled back on those plans.

“We had relied and started to rely too much this year on self-checkout in our stores,” Vasos said on a December earnings call. “We should be using self-checkout as a secondary checkout vehicle, not a primary.”

In March, the company said it would remove self-checkout for stores with the highest levels of shrink. For remaining stores with self-checkout, it would limit customers to scanning five items or fewer.

Do You Like Self-Checkout?

I cannot stand it. My wife prefers it.

Something always seems to go wrong for me. You cannot scan beer or wine, the bar code won’t read, and Costco has a limit on the cost amount.

The latter hit me at Costco this week when I tried to scan a whole beef tenderloin. I had to call an attendant a second time for beer. Loose produce is generally an issue.

Besides, trained clerks are faster, assuming you can find one. But it’s theft issue that will kill self-checkout at grocery stores. Double up a package of T-bone steaks and poof, the store just lost over $30.

RFIDs can take care of general merchandise, but RFIDs in hamburger?

Now Walmart wants you to pay for the agony of self-checkout. No thanks.

A Rise in the Incentive to Steal

Real Income and spending data from the BEA, chart by Mish

On April 27, I noted Growth in Spending Exceeds Growth in Income for Most of the Last 10 Months

A deeper dive into personal income and outlays for March shows significant signs of consumer stress to maintain standards of living.

Only twice in the last 10 months has growth in real income been greater than growth in real spending.

Count dishonest folks struggling with food or rent among those who like self-checkout. The number is sure to rise as the economy slows.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Death of Self-Checkout, Walmart Charges for it in Some Locations”
  1. It’s no surprise that retailers are reconsidering self-checkouts. The convenience they offer comes with a cost – both in terms of theft and customer satisfaction. Walmart’s decision to charge for self-checkout under Walmart+ may help deter theft, but it also puts the burden on customers. Retailers need to strike a balance between security and convenience to ensure a positive shopping experience for all.

  2. Do you think charging customers for self-checkout will really reduce theft? Isn’t it more likely to discourage customers from using it altogether?

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