Walmart, Kroger and Dollar General are Piloting Exclusive Self-Checkout Locations

Joel Eisenberg

All three superchains are poised to implement self-checkout payments exclusively within the next several years, eliminating cashier positions. Other companies are expected to follow.

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Author’s Note

This article is based on corporate postings and accredited media reports. Linked information within this article is attributed to the following outlets: CNN.com, The-Sun.com, Forbes.com, and PrismReports.org.

Introduction

NewsBreak recently published “Dollar General Announces a Sweeping Change Through the Duration of 2022,” my article about the company’s long-planned move to an exclusive self-checkout model. Excerpted in the article was a note from The-Sun.com: The major change is that the retailer is testing self-checkout as the only way of making in-store purchases.

The article goes on to state the self-checkout model is expected to become the exclusive method of checkout in all Dollar General stores should the test succeed.

Dollar General, however, is not the only entity testing this model. Walmart and Kroger are among the highest-profile companies doing the same, while other smaller companies are closely watching to possibly implement the same change.

Let us explore.

The Turn to Self-Checkout

On July 9, CNN.com published “Nobody Likes Self-Checkout. Here’s Why It’s Everywhere.” The article stated: Despite self-checkout’s many shortcomings for customers and store owners, the trend is only growing. Walmart (WMT), Kroger (KR) and Dollar General (DG) are piloting exclusively self-checkout stores. Costco and Albertsons have brought self-checkout back after removing it years ago. Amazon(AMZN) has taken the concept a step further with cashier-less Amazon (AMZN) Go stores. It may simply be too late for stores to turn their back on self-checkout.

The article further alluded to customer frustration with the model: According to a survey last year of 1,000 shoppers, 67% said they’d experienced a failure at the self-checkout lane. Errors at the kiosks are so common that they have even spawned dozens of memes and TikTok videos.

Numerous retailers, and most of the top revenue-generating chains in the country, are already utilizing self-checkout as an option for the customer. Should this model become a replacement for employed cashiers, will other jobs be awaiting that displaced labor force?

The word is mixed. Some believe cashiers are being eliminated entirely; others state new jobs will be created. The fact is… we are not at that 100% point yet in any superchain. Any accurate answer to that question will be determined what that time comes.

Forbes.com, in “Will Grocery Retailers Eliminate Cashiers?” acknowledged the worth of cashiers while discussing the apparent phasing out of them: Cashiers have arguably the toughest job in grocery retail. They are the last interaction and most important impression a customer will have in a store. As much as pricing, assortment or displays, they determine the experience for shoppers. Cashiers also collect most of the payments that a grocery store receives, despite being low paid, sometimes even entry level workers. So why is there a growing trend to eliminate cashiers with expanded automation, self-checkout and cashier-less technologies? Until recently, retail couldn’t function without cashiers.

PrismReports.org elaborates upon the aformentioned frustrations with the self-checkout model, while stating there may be little reason to fear issues related to unemployment. In their May, 2022 piece, “Self-Checkout Systems Create Headaches For Cashiers,” the model’s flaws are explored: Jonathan Ortiz, a 21-year-old Latino New York City resident who worked at supermarkets throughout the pandemic, said he finds self-service kiosks are easy to use and quicker than traditional checkout lines. But not all customers are used to it. Over the winter, his shop in Brooklyn installed a set of four kiosks in an area where few self-service options exist. “You’re gonna get people who don’t know how to use it, and those are the main people that come over there and get angry,” Ortiz said.

The article also quotes Christopher Andrews, a professor at Drew University who studies how self-checkout technology affects work and said the machines have not ultimately eliminated jobs as feared: Though cashiers and retail salespeople remain among occupations at the highest risk of being automated and will disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic workers, so far the number of cashiers has actually increased since 2010. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects cashier jobs will decline between 2020 and 2030, though about 550,000 openings will remain each year due to retirement or occupation changes.

Conclusion

Retail analysts have long expressed concern that technology will one day take away the jobs of humans. When three of the highest-profile store chains in the country stated, during the same calendar year, that they are piloting this change, it appears as though those concerns may have some merit.

Just how much merit remains to be determined.

Time will tell if the switch to self-checkout only, which comes with its own set of challenges, will be a success. Widespread expectations are the experiment will become the wave of the future, and the learning curve will be akin to our cultural changeover to computers and smart phones.

In other words, we’re expected to adapt.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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