We've talked about the plusses and minuses of self-checkout over the years. Our discussions tend to revolve around convenience and speed vs. a lack of personalized service. Most commentators seem to prefer a full service checkout as long as they don't have to stand in line and the cashier is friendly and speedy. But the reality is that in many places the self-checkout experience is quicker and the absence of a human connection is preferable to an unfriendly or indifferent cashier.
Focusing on an additional dimension to the issue, a recent USA Today article points out that many retailers are seriously questioning the use of self-checkout at least partially due to an increase in theft. A video from StopLift, a security company specializing in checkout loss prevention, demonstrates that there is a myriad of ways to steal via self-checkout. Newer self-checkout systems, according to USA Today, do provide for more automation of the process, and video and other monitoring of the lanes make it easier to determine when a customer is actually a thief.
In the face of an apparent higher theft rate in self-checkout lanes, some stores are removing them, while others such as Walmart are continuing to add them because of the convenience factor and the cost reduction possibilities. The net effect is that self-checkout continues to grow. The Big Y supermarket chain announced they were getting rid of them last fall but a spokesperson told USA Today they had seen no decline in theft since doing that.
Is the theft risk from self-checkout so high that retailers should ban them from their operations?