Hi, my name is Ryan. I love using the self-checkout lane. I think it makes the entire shopping experience easier, and it’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
I didn’t always feel this way. Truth be told, there was a point in time I avoided them completely. My wife would always use them if we were shopping together oftentimes with no problem. But, any time I tried, it was inevitable something went wrong. An item wouldn’t scan, the scale wouldn’t register the weight of whatever it asked me to put on it, or it would think I had put something in the bag without having scanned it first. It was an incredibly frustrating experience.
But, there were times I would pop in the store just to grab one or two things, and every line that had an actual human cashier ringing up items was five customers deep, each with a full cart. Meanwhile, just down the way, there were a handful of self-checkouts with no one using them. So, instead of waiting 15 or 20 minutes to pay for one or two things that would take maybe two minutes to finish, I’d make my way to an empty self-checkout and give it another try. Over time, the issues I had run into before became fewer and fewer to the point where I used them several times in a row with no problem. Whether the self-checkout technology evolved, or I just finally figured things out, I don’t know, but now I don’t even bother checking how long the lines are in the cashier lanes. I head straight for the self-checkout even with a full cart of groceries.
Why I Find It Better
It’s quicker. Unlike most people, I don’t mind going to the store. Even the big retailers like Walmart. With that said, I don’t want to be there any longer than I need to be, and I find the self-checkouts help get me out of there quicker. The lines are generally shorter, so I’m not waiting 10, 15, or 20 minutes before I even get up to the conveyor belt to empty my cart, and the more I’ve used them the better I’ve become at ringing up my items.
I’m in Control
can be am a bit of a control freak. Using self-checkouts gives me full control not over how quickly my groceries get scanned, but how they get bagged too. Cashiers are trained to keep things moving as quickly as possible, and while they’re also trained on which items to bag together, human error happens, especially when they’re in a hurry because they have a long line of customers to get through, which can lead to the occasional smashed loaf of bread or cracked eggs. At the self-checkout, I can make sure those items get bagged separately and my dairy, frozen, produce, and meat items are all bagged with their counterparts together.
But, They Take People’s Jobs
The Walmart in Newburgh, where I do some of my grocery shopping each week, recently expanded the number of self-checkout lanes, and as you can imagine, it did not go over well with some people. A common reason many of them cite is that it takes a job away from someone. There are some arguments to suggest that isn’t the case, but if we’re being honest, in some stores it probably is. However, think about what we’ve seen a rise of since the start of the pandemic — ordering online and picking up at the store. The items on those online orders don’t magically float off the shelves and bag themselves, it requires an employee to do it. That’s where the former cashiers come in. They still have a job, it’s just been, let’s say, “repurposed.” If I were in their position and given the choice of standing in one spot for eight hours a day ringing up and bagging groceries, or I could walk around the store during that same time and fill online orders, I’m taking the online order option without hesitation.
“They’re Not Paying Me to Work”
This is another common argument from the anti-self-checkout population. The idea that not only are they paying for the items they’re purchasing (which they probably also complain cost too much), now we’re providing the company free labor by being forced to scan and bag our own groceries.
If it took us an hour or two to do, I’d say they may have a valid argument. But, it maybe takes 10 to 15 minutes tops depending on how many items you have. It all boils down to how much do you value your time. I remember taking an Intro to Economics class in college at the University of Southern Indiana and the professor said something in class one day that has stuck with me over 20 years later. He said everything has an opportunity cost, and what he meant was that no matter what we choose, it costs us an opportunity to do something else. In my opinion, the opportunity cost of waiting in line just to have an employee ring up and grab my groceries when I could have done it in half the time at self-checkout is a price I don’t want to pay. While it may only be a few minutes each time, those minutes add up over time.
Change is Inevitable (And Not Always a Bad Thing)
There was a time when you couldn’t pump your own gas. Instead, you pulled up to a pump and waited for an employee of the gas station to pump it for you. If you’re under the age of 50, that idea probably sounds insane because we’ve become so accustomed to doing it ourselves. While I imagine there was some backlash back in the day as gas stations began to phase out the attendant position when’s the last time you heard someone complain about not having someone to pump their gas for them? I think the same will be said about checkout lanes by the time my grandchildren are adults and shopping on their own. The idea that a store had an actual person take your items and ring them up for you is going to sound bonkers to them.
My point is, while it may be a tough pill for some to swallow now, the self-checkout lanes are not going away. The day will come when that’s the only option we have (outside of store pickup and home delivery). As a matter of fact, it seems like it will happen sooner rather than later as Walmart began experiencing all-self-checkout lanes back in June of 2020. I say bring it on. I’m all for anything that will make my shopping experience quicker and easier.
If you don’t agree that’s fine. I’m not here to change your mind. If I did, great. If not, that’s great too. My point here was to share a different perspective on something that from what I’ve seen, the majority of people around here aren’t real fond of right now, and I appreciate you taking the time to read it.
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