For many, a trip to the grocery store can be an absolute drag. It can take forever, and before you know it you’re waiting in a long line for checkout. Oftentimes, not enough lanes are open at the checkout, so you can find yourself in a line that stretches up to 10 customers long. For this reason, and also given the rising price of wages, many retailers have added self-checkouts to make the shopping experience much smoother and time-effective for customers. This change included Walmart, one of the world’s largest grocers and retailers. In most Walmart stores, you can find a large number of self-checkout spots. They have just announced, though, that they will no longer be looking to increase the number of self-checkout spots at their vast chain of stores. Here’s why.
Walmart first introduced its Scan-and-Go stations as a way for customers to save time and for the company to save money by hiring fewer cashiers. At first, they thought this would be a popular change with customers. Walmart has a bad reputation in terms of customer service, so they hoped the change would make Walmart more popular with the public. What self-checkout amounted to, however, was pawning off work on the customer in order to save money for the corporation. When customers go to the grocery store, they don’t expect to have to do more work than necessary in order to get their groceries. Self-checkouts ended up gaining a negative reputation with customers. Overall, they felt that Walmart was using them as free labor in order to get away with hiring and paying fewer cashiers. Walmart has since realized that Scan-and-Go stations are wildly unpopular and that customers can’t be expected to do extra work just because Walmart doesn’t want to hire more people.
This is why Walmart has announced that they will be focusing on hiring more cashiers instead of opening more Scan-and-Go stations. Self-checkout was a failed experiment. Walmart wants to increase their reputation with customers, and they believe that the added face-to-face human contact from more cashiers should be able to help with this. Many believe that businesses have been outsourcing work to the customer for a long time. Oftentimes, this has been because of concerns over the rising cost of labor. Many businesses figured that they could save money and cut costs by using robots and customers to fill the roles that traditional employees like cashiers would fill. Heading into the future, it is unclear if more retailers will follow Walmart’s lead in hiring more cashiers in order to take back work from the customer. If retailers really want to create a streamlined shopping experience and win customer support, it seems like Walmart’s failed experiment is instructive. Instead of outsourcing work to the customers, companies should focus on making traditional checkout lines more time-efficient for customers. This will boost public opinion and probably lead to increased business. If people feel that they are being treated well, they will have a better shopping experience and will be more likely to return.