Things are changing fast these days.
Things that were completely normal and expected a while ago seem to rapidly become obsolete.
Now, Walmart is experimenting with a self-checkout-only model.
If things turn out well, more locations may make the switch.
Is it time to say goodbye to cashiers?
Namely, a Walmart store in Fayetteville, Arkansas is testing using self-checkout machines only.
If they need help, customers can speak with the self-checkout hosts at the front of the store, who can even check out customer’s groceries for them.
Last year, when they started the test, the company announced that if this proves successful, it will roll this out in stores across the country.
Although they didn’t give a precise time, they explained that it will depend on several factors, including input from employees and customers.
According to Walmart representatives, they intend to make the entire process as easy as possible for all, customers and associates.
The massive interest in self-checkout machines is due to the cost savings.
For instance, a report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation showed that it costs about three dollars to check someone in at an airport at a staffed desk. When a customer uses an electronic terminal, that cost is reduced to just fourteen cents.
Supporters of these machines also claim that numerous customers enjoy the privacy and autonomy that they provide.
Christina Forest, a senior project manager for Fujitsu, which makes self-checkout machines, maintains that some people like to be in control of what’s going on and have a more private experience:
“If I’m going in and buying something that’s maybe a personal item, I might prefer to buy it on my own without help.”
Of course, there are a lot of people who dislike the use of self-checkout machines. Some customers are beginning to resent doing “unpaid work”.
Many customers face difficulties while using these machines, and end up in need of help anyway.
In this way, self-checkout ends up taking much longer.
Many are also worried that such a practice would put cashiers out of work.
However, on their website, Walmart explains the new system as a “full check-out experience”.
A greeter at the entrance will lead customers to the self-checkout area and employees will help them through the entire process.
They claim that this new style of cashing out will be more personal, not less.
John Crecelius, Senior Vice President of Walmart U.S. Innovations Development, says:
“By nature, individual lanes make the checkout experience transactional, but being face-to-face, the interaction becomes a relationship. We want to make it a personal experience.”
Fayetteville Store Manager Carl Morris added that the new layout seems to be having a positive effect on the employees and their customer service.
“We will go to any register, and we will help you in any fashion you want, whether it’s checking out one item or all the items. Any questions you have, we’re right there for you.”
The new much more open-concept layout of 34 self-checkout machines is always open and much more adaptable to changes in customer flow than the traditional lanes.
Plus, they no longer have the problem with the lack of staff when a normally quiet time suddenly becomes busy.
Employees at the Fayetteville location claimed they are now happier at work, more productive, and working together more.
Front end team lead Matt Downing said:
“Now they [the checkout associates] get to run returns out to the store. They get to go to produce and bring someone a fresh apple that’s not bruised. They feel like they are a part of the store now.”
So, it seems that one thing is for certain: Self-checkout machines are here to stay.