If I wanted to work in retail, I would just apply for a job in retail. As a shopper, I feel it is a gross imposition to force me, the customer, to check out my own items. I am not saying that self-checkouts should be banned. I believe, if a self-checkout makes you happy, then have at it and self-checkout to your heart's content. By the same token, if I don't like a self-checkout, I shouldn't have to use one.  I thought the customer was ALWAYS right. Right?

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash
Photo by Julien L on Unsplash
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However, I have a simple question, "why are more and more stores closing more and more manned checkout stations for self-checkouts,  when so many people dislike them?" A recent survey of customers nationwide find that 67% of the people who've used self-checkout have had problems with them. It's even given rise to a new term: "Self-Checkout Rage".

Retailers are also finding that the self-checkouts are not delivering the savings they originally projected. Traditional cashiers are not as well-paid as the armies of IT workers being required to keep these machines working.

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Photo by Studio Republic on Unsplash
Photo by Studio Republic on Unsplash
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Self-checkouts are causing big increases in theft and honest errors which is resulting in bigger retail losses. Customers are making big mistakes with items that have multiple barcodes or barcodes that don't scan properly.  Some fruit and meat items require a manual code to be entered and that is causing errors, because customers are just not trained to be cashiers.

Yes, the march to a future where all checkouts are self-checkouts continues as more and more retailers are piloting exclusively self-checkout stores. Walmart and Dollar General are already telling stockholders that all their stores will eventually be fully self-checkout.

If this is the case, then the self-checkout experience is going to have to get a whole lot better. Mashgin, based in Palo Alto, California has spent 8 years working on technology to create the next generation self-checkout machine.  They've come up with something very interesting.

Photo: Mashgin
Photo: Mashgin
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Their machine doesn't require customers to scan items. The countertop system uses artificial intelligence to identify and ring up items automatically.  This allows customers, even with many items, to check out in as little as 10 seconds. Circle K Stores already plan to install 7,000 of the new machines in their stores in the next three years.

Mashgin says the machines have reached an accuracy of 99.9%, although they will require additional work to function in supermarkets where some items will need to be weighed.

In the meantime, forcing customers to use self-checkout when they don't want to could create opportunities for savvy retailers.  How about a chain of supermarkets with old-fashioned "manned" checkout?  As much as many people hate self-checkouts, would this work?  My opinion, no. Big retailers know they've got us, and like it or not, today the customer ISN'T always right.  For me and many others that reality is just sad.

I am hoping Mashgin and others who are developing better self-checkouts will win out in the end.  I wouldn't mind using a self-checkout if they truly make it more convenient for me, the customer.  In the meantime, I'll just have to get used to hearing the familiar recorded self-checkout refrain: "Please place item in the bag" or "Please wait for assistance".

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash
Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash
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Something tells me it might be a long wait.