Shoppers, Retailers Frustrated by Self-Checkout

Stores are adding video systems to help customers check out and to combat theft.

February 14, 2020

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Consumers aren’t the only ones who find it hard to use self-checkout machines. Retailers experience their own headaches with cashier-free lanes, including theft and technology malfunctions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For example, Walmart recently removed or disabled weight sensors designed to deter theft because the sensors annoyed shoppers with too many “wait for assistance” messages. The sensors brought “friction during the transaction,” according to a Walmart spokesperson.

Some retailers are replacing such sensors with cameras that gather intel on products while allowing shoppers to solve checkout snafus on their own. However, theft increases when customers check themselves out, both at a register and with a handheld device, so retailers want new technology, such as video cameras, to counter that. For example, Walmart uses a system designed by Everseen in more than 2,000 locations. The camera system can pause a transaction in real time and alert an employee if an item was mis-scanned or not scanned.

Despite the frustrations, stores see the value of self-checkout lanes, with Target and Walmart adding more to remodeled stores and Costco expanding a pilot program to an additional 100 locations. Overall, shoppers like self-checkout, with about a third of Target shoppers picking self-checkout.

Meanwhile, retailers also continue to experiment with cashierless stores. For instance, Amazon Go has expanded its offering by adding hot foodservice to one of its locations, while 7-Eleven recently started testing a cashier-free store near its headquarters in Texas.