Self Checkout at Stores: Pros and Cons


More and more stores near where I live are installing self checkout aisles — including grocery stores, discount stores like Walmart, and drugstores. What are the pros and cons of self checkout to the customer?

Good things about self checkout:

  1. You finish quicker than if you’d stood in line and gone to a cashier. And the process seems more efficient.
  2. If it’s not actually true, you have the perception you finished quicker!
  3. You can pack your groceries in store-provided bags or your own reusable bags any way you want. And use as many bags as you want. No more packing heavy stuff on top of your eggs. 🙂
  4. You don’t have to interact with anyone and make “polite” conversation with the cashier (especially good after a long day at work, a bad day, or if you’re an introvert)
  5. You’re controlling the process: you can scan fast, scan slow, double-check sale prices are entered, bag purchases at your own pace, etc.  And you’re taking action quickly instead of being forced to wait in line for a cashier for an unknown time. (I have an uncanny way of ending up behind someone who needs a price check, is returning an item, etc.)
  6. Self checkout is super convenient if you’re only buying one or two items. It enables you to get in and out quickly.
  7. You can usually turn the register’s sound off, and all you have to do is ask a clerk once to learn how. I LOVE not having the annoying automated voice talk me through the whole checkout process!
  8. It’s more private if you’re buying personal products (no stares from anyone, no uncomfortable feeling; if you want to buy 100 condoms, go right ahead…)

Bad things about self checkout:

  1. If there’s nobody in line for a cashier, you may finish quicker than at self checkout (though this rarely happens).
  2. You’re doing the work.
  3. And… you have to pack your own bags.
  4. You have to find the bar-scan code and scan your own purchases.
  5. You have to find the number to key it in for fruit and other items.
  6. You have to remember to input your store’s “special customer” card or account number to get items at the sales price. At the cashier’s checkout, they usually ask to remind you to do it (but you still have to do it).
  7. You  may have to wait in line for a self checkout register as if you’d been in line for a cashier (although it’s not usually as long a wait, I’ve found).
  8. Sometimes the register malfunctions and you have to call a clerk for help (and may have to wait for that clerk to finish helping someone else, losing time). If you’re really unlucky, this can happen several times during a single checkout.
  9. You’re tired, unwilling, not technologically savvy, or just plain don’t want to check out your own purchases!

I love self checkout and think it’s a real time-saver. But it’s a win-win situation to me; whatever your choice, go for it!

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