If you encounter these annoying alerts in a self-checkout device, you are not alone.
Customers aren’t the only ones frustrated with the self-checkout experience. Stores have challenges with it, too.
Despite the headache, the self-propelled process is increasing.
In 2020, 29% of transactions at food retailers were processed through self-pay, up from 23% a year earlier, according to the latest data from the Federation of Food Industries FMI.
This raises the question: Why does this unpopular technology often take over retail?
Getting clients to do the work
Instead of the clerks behind customers’ counter-assembly products, Piggly Wiggly allowed shoppers to wander the aisles, pick items off the shelves and pay at the register. In exchange for more work, the model promised lower prices.
However, the self-propelled system has been primarily designed to reduce labor expenses in stores. The system reduced cashier costs by up to 66%, According to a 1988 article in the Miami Herald.
The first modern self-propelled payment system, which was patented by CheckRobot in Florida and installed in many Kroger stores, shoppers will almost never be able to recognize today.
Customers scanned their items and placed them on a conveyor belt. An employee at the other end of the belt is packing groceries. Then customers took them to the central cashier area for payment.
But self-pay hasn’t revolutionized the grocery store. Many clients were reluctant to have to do more work for benefits that weren’t quite as obvious.
“The rationale was based on economics, not customer focused,” Charlebois said. “From the beginning, the customers hated them.”
A 2003 Nielsen survey found that 52% of shoppers considered the self-checkout aisles to be “good,” while 16% said they were “disappointed.” Thirty-two percent of shoppers described it as “awesome.”
The move to self-pay has had unintended consequences for stores, too.
Although self-pay counters have eliminated some of the functions of traditional cashiers, they still needed employees and created a need for higher-paying IT jobs, he said.
Andrews added that the self-propelled system “doesn’t deliver on anything it promises”.
In store owners’ biggest headache, self-pay leads to more losses due to error or theft than traditional cashiers.
“If you had a retail store where 50% of transactions were through self-pay, the losses would be 77% higher” than average, says Adrian Beck, professor emeritus at the University of Leicester in the UK who studies retail losses.
Customers make honest mistakes as well as deliberately steal in self-checkout machines.
Some products contain many barcodes or barcodes that are not scanned correctly. Products, including fruit and meat, usually need to be manually weighed and entered into the system using a code. Customers may write wrong code by accident. Other times, shoppers won’t hear a “beep” confirming that an item has been scanned correctly.
“Consumers are not very good at scanning reliably,” Beck said. “Why should they be? They are untrained.”
Stores have tried to limit losses by tightening self-propelled safety features, such as adding weight sensors. But additional anti-theft measures also lead to more frustrating errors for “unexpected items in the packing area,” requiring store personnel to step in.
“There is a delicate balance between security and customer convenience,” Beck said.
Self exit is to stay here
Despite the many shortcomings that customers and store owners have with the self-checkout process, the trend is growing.
Simply put, it may be too late for stores to turn their backs on self-checkout.
Today’s stores serve shoppers who see self-checkout as faster than traditional cashiers, although there is little evidence to support this. But because customers are doing the work, rather than waiting in line, the experience can feel like it’s moving more quickly.
Store owners also saw competitors installing a self-checkout feature and decided they didn’t want to miss out on it.
“It’s an arms race,” said David D’Arezzo, a former CEO at Dollar General, Wegmans and other retailers. “If everyone’s doing it, you look like an idiot if you don’t have it.” “Once you take it out of the bag, it’s very hard not to serve it anymore.”
The Covid-19 virus has also accelerated the spread of self-exit procedures.
During the pandemic, many customers have opted for self-service to avoid close interactions with cashiers and baggage handlers. Staffing and retention challenges have led stores to rely more on machines to attract customers through the door.
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