The Atlantic has a piece suggesting that "all is not rosy in the world of self-checkout, and some companies seem to realize it. Walmart has removed the kiosks entirely from a handful of stores, and is redesigning others to involve more employee help. Costco is stationing more staffers in its self-checkout areas. ShopRite is adding cashiers back into stores where it had trialed a self-checkout-only model, citing customer backlash. None of this is an indication that self-checkout is over, exactly. But several decades in, the kiosks as Americans have long known them are beginning to look like a failure."
You can read the entire piece here.
- KC's View:
I love The Atlantic. It is one of my favorite reads - any site/magazine that features writers like Tim Alberta, Anne Applebaum, David Frum, and Mark Leibovich and Tom Nichols has lots going for it.
But on this one, I'm going to call B.S.
• If self-checkout is a failure, why has Wegmans devoted 75 percent of its checkouts in its new Astor Place store in Manhattan to the technology? (See my video above.)
• I would argue that speed always has been an illusory advantage with self-checkout. For many people - me included - it is more about control.
• Self-checkout never has been for everyone. It is a choice. An option. It is no surprise that stores that tried all-self-checkout models have had to back off a bit. But at a time when it is hard to find workers, self-checkout can be a valuable tool.
• By the way, the position here has been - for decades - that retailers who only saw self-checkout as a way to eliminate human employees were making a mistake. The best use of self-checkout is as a strategic option, but at least some of the unneeded employees should have been deployed to other parts of the store to improve customer service. (I concede that this hasn't happened in many places.)
• Is there some self-checkout-related theft? Sure. But there's also theft at manned checkout lanes, as well as stuff going out the back door without being paid for. You can be vigilant without throwing out the whole technology.
• The biggest problem with self-checkout is that it won't be long before it is obsolete - there is no question in my mind that at some point, checkout-free stores will start to gain momentum. It'll take time, but it will happen. It is inevitable.
Self-checkout a failure? No way. It can be a flawed solution, and not all retailers have approached it the right way. But I like "failure" is hyperbolic and not representative of what's really happening out there.