The state of self-checkout: Target tests a new system as retailers combat long lines, inventory loss


(NEW YORK) — Several major retailers are re-evaluating self-checkout for customers after analysts have seen inventory loss.

“Retailers are really starting to use technology in order to look at the shrink problem,” Hitha Herzog, chief research officer of H Squared Research, told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “The technology that is powering self-checkout is also layering in other technology like AI that’s monitoring the customer, that’s checking out the products.”

One industry survey found that self-check-out represented 30% of transactions in 2021, and that 96% of food retailers surveyed offered it at their stores.

With cashier-less technology, however, also comes complaints of glitches while scanning items and paying.

One frustrated shopper, Dave Dolphin, told GMA “there’s always, like, one item that doesn’t scan and then all of a sudden — that light goes from green to yellow above you.”

The DIY system also has created an impersonal experience for customers, which many shoppers say they dislike.

“A lot of us want a human being. We want to have that conversation. We want to be able to voice our concerns or ask a question about a product,” Julie Domina, another shopper, told GMA.

Self-checkout is meant to keep things moving, but many times there are unavoidable long lines at self-checkout stations, packed with customers who have varying numbers of products to purchase.

Target stores are currently testing a 10-item limit for self-checkout lanes, as CNN first reported, to help reduce wait times.

Though consumers who spoke with ABC News agreed that self-checkout is convenient for one or two items, they also said they really enjoy having that personal interaction with a cashier.

Dollar General says it plans to ramp up its employee presence at the front of the stores. While it notes the convenience of self-checkout for some customers, a representative for the discount store told GMA that it “does not reduce the importance of a friendly, helpful employee who is there to greet customers and assist while the checkout process is happening.”

“People want that interaction,” said Heather Frye who works at a small grocer, Rivertown IGA, outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.

She told GMA that her store has “two self -checkout stations, but say they pride themselves on their personal ‘check-ins’ from their cashiers.”

“Our self-checkouts [are] just an option,” Frye added. “If you don’t want to use it, please go see the regular cashiers because they’re going to know your family, know what you usually shop for. They’re going to talk about the town gossip. They are friends.”

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