How do you feel about the self-checkout lanes in retail and grocery stores?
Back in January, we asked this question on our social media pages:
How often do you use self-checkout when shopping at a store with that option? Do you prefer using self-check or checking out with a cashier?
We knew this was a hot topic, but we had no idea we’d hear from so many of you! We received so many comments on this post, and panel members had very strong opinions.
Got an opinion on self-checkout? Leave us a comment and let us know!
What Exactly is Self-Checkout?
You’ve probably seen it at a store near you, but self-checkout is basically a way for customers at a business to complete their transaction without assistance from another person. There are several ways a business can implement it, and many different types of businesses offer some form of self-checkout.
Typically, we think about big-box retail and grocery stores where there’s a separate space for self-checkout, and customers not only scan their own items but also bag their own items, often without any interaction with the store’s staff.
Restaurants and other small businesses have also started to implement various self-check options and contactless ordering, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we’re going to focus on self-checkout in retail and grocery stores.
Where Did Self-Checkout Come From?
David Humble, the president of an electronics company, was waiting in line at a grocery store. He was fed up with the slow-moving cashier, grabbed the scanner, and started scanning his items himself. The experience led him to wonder: why can’t customers just scan their own items at the store?
Humble convinced his company to develop a prototype, and self-service checkout was born. The machines were first introduced to the public in 1986 at a Kroger store in Georgia.
While his idea was sparked by his frustration as a customer, the system as a whole was intended to lower stores’ labor expenses. The trend picked up during the 2001 recession and had a mixed response from customers. A 2003 Nielsen survey found that 52% of shoppers thought self-checkout was just “okay,” with 16% calling them frustrating. Another 32% of survey respondents said they were “great.”
Not surprisingly, the comments on our posts ranged from “I love it!” to “I hate it!” to everything in between.
Let Me Do It Myself
Many of you like self-checkout because you want to bag your own groceries—this was a very popular response. Dorothy S. said she checks herself out at the store “most of the time. I prefer to bag my own stuff.” If you’ve ever ended up with a loaf of bread smashed underneath a cantaloupe, you probably agree!
Bagging your own groceries wasn’t the only reason some of you prefer the self-checkout lanes. Some of the other reasons panel members gave us:
- It’s often faster than waiting in line for a cashier
- You don’t want to make small talk with the cashier
- Fewer hands touching your items or other concerns about germs
I’m Not An Employee
On the flip side, many of you dislike using the self-checkout lanes. The most common response from this group of people was concern for the cashier’s job and not wanting to contribute to people being out of work. Like Rita S. said, “I prefer human contact and job security, so I check out with a cashier whenever possible.”
Many of you also genuinely enjoy getting to know your cashiers and chatting with them while you’re checking out! Human interaction is an important part of life, that’s for sure. Other reasons for going to lanes with cashiers include:
- You aren’t comfortable with the technology
- You’re buying things that require a cashier, such as alcohol or produce that needs to be weighed
- Large purchases are harder to manage at self-checkout
Either Way is Fine With Me
And of course, many of you don’t have a strong opinion either way, and you prefer whatever is easiest in the moment.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted some peoples’ opinions on self-checkout, too. We saw several comments from people with increased concerns about germs or cashiers coughing and sneezing. Some of you responded that self-checkout gives you more control about who handles your items and minimizes your exposure.
Whatever your opinions on self-checkout, it’s probably here to stay.
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i don,t like self check out i work in a large store. and they only care about self check out when 1 person canm watch 7 regester and if someone steals something it your not watching the reg.
I always use the self check out. That way my groceries are bagged the way I want them. But if I have LOTS of items and the regular lines are reasonable I will go to a cashier and check out.
I love to use the self checkout when I have less than 10 items. Otherwise I will use the other lanes. But for the past year it’s been a hassle to use the regular lanes because the lines are so long that it literally takes at least 30 minutes before you can checkout. Time is usually my biggest issue.
It’s ok if you have small order
I personally don’t mind checking myself out as I can keep up with the price easier incase I overspend and I can make sure things are ringing up correctly. A lot of times the cashiers take their time and want to chit chat, which is fine, but most of the time I want to get in and out as quickly as possible without small talk. But as everyone said in previous comments, if there’s no discount being had for less employees being paid… What the heck is the point in all of this? I’ll tell you. They’re saving plenty of money by having less employees but they’re keeping it for the company and not passing the savings onto us. I went to Walmart 2 days ago and all but 10 of 30 self check outs were open. I start scanning my items (right next to 4 other customers scanning their items on different terminals) and this employee stood right behind me and stared a hole into me. Only me. It was the most awkward thing ever. I wanted to say something to her so badly but I had my kids with me so I didn’t. I understand if she’s watching the self checkouts for theft but she was only watching me. Standing right up behind my buggy, looking me dead in the eyes the whole time. Now if you can hire some insane woman to do THAT all day, couldn’t she spend her useless time scanning my groceries since you aren’t passing on the savings to the customers anyway? Self checkout is really a double edged sword.
I worked for a retail company that has self-checkout and it doesn’t keep people from working…
I actually worked self checkout and it gave me a job for 8 hours, 32 hours a week
This doesn’t have a Category! So that would be something that would have to be made. But when I wash my Car, I think it would be neat to have that as a choice too. Just get receipt and scan it. Unless you could put Carwash under a Miscellaneous Category for a purchase. Just a Idea 😊
Hi Tammy, we appreciate your feedback!
I dont think we should have self ck outs! A Lawyer is warning people not to use them-if you accedently miss an item and it dont scan Your arrested! They dont give me a discount nor lower the prices .
For me self checkout is a mixed bag of good and bad. As I watch my big name grocery store add more self checkout lanes, they don’t add more people. What good does multiple self checkout lanes do if over half of the lanes remain closed. In the same token if I as a customer is replacing a cashier I definitely expect to see lower prices. I am not a big fan of the digital process either. I found that scanning my shoppers card and inserting my credit/debit card a much more consistent process than multiple swipes trying to get my shopping app’s QR code to read.
I now make it a practice to do smaller shopping trips more frequently while trying to avoid high customer traffic times at the store.
My friend has her groceries delivered and she goes through receiving product not ordered and at times being charged twice for one item.
The technology is still in the rough-in phase.
Amen to all of this. I feel the same exact way.
So yeah the self check out ‘s aren’t bad not at except my grocery store puts their best cashier’s not on self check out Lanes, matter of fact I don’t see a cashier at the self check out. Unless we need an item taken off of price checks.. only thing I don’t like about these check outs is that they’ve got to be calibrated now and then out else it’ll charge you $50.00- $120.00 over your original bill, my wife went shopping they charged her $15.00 for normal size peanut butter then her bill was $98.90 over what I had on my calculator then the lady got a real sour attitude because I said the machine is wrong and I know it. She gave me the death look so I ended up in an argument this lady.. so they’re a pain these machines
I love the self checkout I hate waiting in line forver and the cashier is always so slow
Self-checkouts are fine for those who like them. True, they may save time, but it’s very sad when you have to pay higher prices, check yourself our, while employees are standing, ‘holding the walls up’, doing nothing. If they can hire employees to ‘hold up walls’, they can check out customers. Also, if they can pay people to doing nothing, they can afford to give customers a discount for doing the employees work.
I dislike self checkout. I don’t work there; I’m not getting compensated, nor am I getting a discount even. I’d rather go to a person so they are able to keep their job. Also, where it may have been the faster choice initially; if everyone uses it, the process will be slowed down. Either by more people needing assistance with certain items or by those not using it now being forced to use it. I saw a long line for self checkout just recently. How does that speed up the process?
Then, there are the articles about people being accused of stealing at the self checkouts. No thanks. I’ll just go to a person who will smile back and leave with a “have a wonderful day!” 😊
I use self checkout because I am faster than most clerks at the registers now. I haven’t been a cashier in 40 years, but I am still faster and I know how to bag properly.
I like self checkout but one time I needed assistance and when the employee came to help he said that the item I had wasn’t the same item I rang up. I insisted that he scan it again himself and when he did it rang up exactly the same as it did for me. I thought he would at least apologize but of course he didn’t. I’m not a professional cashier, I worry that I could make a mistake and be accused of being dishonest. I must not be too concerned I guess because I still use the self checkout process wherever it’s available. I am sure that if the same thing happens again, I won’t be leaving without an apology. Still a little salty about it, lol. I really appreciate great customer service but I’m seeing a lot less unfortunately.
I like self checkout but one time I needed assistance and when the employee came to help he said that the item I had wasn’t the same item I rang up. I insisted that he scan it again himself and when he did it rang up exactly the same as it did for me. I thought he would at least apologize but of course he didn’t. I’m not a professional cashier, I worry that I could make a mistake and be accused of being dishonest. I must not be too concerned I guess because I still use the self checkout process wherever it’s available.
I think it’s just a way to cut jobs and labor cost at the expense of people’s lively hood and they create more confusion than anything.
i think so too robotics will run the country one day
I prefer self-checkout because it makes me more aware of the cost of each item as it’s being rung up. So I can catch if something looks weird before I pay.
But I see articles lately online about customers being accused of shoplifting at self-checkout so maybe going to the cashier is safer.
I love the self checkout area myself! I hate having my items not bagged the right way. All my cold stuff should be in 1 or 2 bags… Not mixed in with non cold items. It’s not difficult to do. I can spend $200 at Walmart and I have a cart full and I will still do the self checkout! I get mad that Smith’s (Kroger) has a limit of 20 items in the self checkout. So I buy exactly 20. They are dumb for making me not spend more money there. I refuse to go through the cashier line if at all possible.
I agree! I prefer self-checkout and will also use it with a cart filled with $200+ in groceries! It started out, for me anyways, that I preferred this way because I would rather bag my own groceries. I like my cold and frozen groceries to be bagged separately from everything else and I have insulated bags to put them in to reduce things from defrosting or melting too much on the way home. I also usually bag all of my breads, chips and anything else that is lightweight like these separately from the rest of my groceries. Recently, I have started going through a cashier lane for a couple different reasons. One time I knew my card hadn’t been reading correctly earlier that day so I knew in advance that I might need assistance. Rather than hold up the self checkout lines waiting for someone to come help me, I felt it would be faster to go to a cashier. However, I’ve noticed something else that I am not happy about when going to a cashier. In the past few months, after I get home and I’m scanning my groceries and putting them away, I’ve noticed on 3 separate occasions & at 2 different stores that I had been double charged for items that I had only purchased 1 of the item!! There’s really no way to prove this if I were to take my receipt back to the store so I just have to accept that extra charge. For this reason alone, I will no longer go to a cashier because it makes me wonder how many other times this may have happened and I didn’t notice it. It’s not a big deal if it happens once in a blue moon and it’s a lower priced item, but the price of all groceries have gone up so significantly lately that I can’t even brush off something like that, even on a smaller item.
I wouldn’t mind as much if I were to get a discount on my groceries. It takes me longer to scan and bag a week’s worth of groceries than to wait in line. I don’t mind paying the prices as it covers the service if checkout and bagging. If I provide my own ‘service’ I think I should be compensated by getting a discount at checkout.
I’m of the “I’m not an employee”, but not because I’m not tech savvy, more because I’m not being paid to check myself out. That’s what we’re paying those exhorbitant prices for, so man up and check me out!!
There is a store nearby that activity direct customers to the auto checkout stations rather than use a human cashier. In that situation I’m obligated to use the machines. If I have a choice between human cashier and a machine, I’ll choose the human. Self check out machines take the place of human workers. Ultimately the workforce will be reduced. People will lose their jobs. I don’t want to contribute to that.
At my favorite grocery store, I’ve observed that they put the BEST cashiers in the self-service area – the ones who know how to fix the machines, how to ring up problem items, why an item isn’t ringing up with the sale price, etc.