Self check-outs are becoming more and more common in retail stores, but not everyone likes them. (CBC)

Disappearing cashiers: self check-out replacing people

Retail self-checkout: a trend but with backlash

More and more stores are reducing cashiers and replacing them with self checkouts. But unlike ATM’s or self-serve gas stations, they are still not widely accepted by clients.

However, it might be an uphill battle against a growing retail trend says Reilly Stephens. She is Director of Insights at Retail Prophet, a consultancy that helps brands and retailers identify future retail trends.


Ms Stephens notes that there has been widespread acceptance of ATM cash machines which have replaced many bank tellers, because these provide real convenience with service available 24hrs a day.

Reilly Stephens, Director of Insights at Retail Prophet (supplied)

The degree of backlash against self-checkout is because many feel there is no added convenience and they take away jobs. This is especially felt among older customers she says, adding that eventually thousands of jobs can or will be affected.

The self check-outs often have glitches slowing the process down and frustrating customers. Older people expecially are concerned about the technology replacing human jobs. (CBC)

In spite of claims promoted by retailers of adding self-checkout as providing “greater convenience” for customers she also notes that often self-checkout has glitches that frustrate customers and thus often is not faster than going through the human cashier.

Ms Reilly says it’s really a cost-saving measure in an increasing tough retail world.

As an example she has cited that a study of airline situations show the cost of an actual human for the airline ticket counter was around 3 dollars for each customer served compared to an automated ticket machine cost of about 14 cents per customer.

The current millions of people employed as retail cashier are already dwindling in number and it seems to be one more human employment opportunity that is fading fast.

Shown here in testing in 2017, Amazon Go opened its first cashier-less store in 2018 in Seattle. It relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back. Cash registers and checkout lines become superfluous – customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file (Elaine Thompson- AP)

She notes Amazon-Go is already opening entirely cashier-less stores which use smart-phone apps, eliminating even the “self check-outs” and there are plans to open some 3,000 of these stores within just a couple of years.

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