As someone who had worked in retail for over five years, and has had experience with self-checkout terminals I thought I could give a unique insider perspective. First of all they are not stealing away jobs from cashiers. Let me repeat that once again. Self-checkout terminals are never going to completely replace cashiers on a widespread scale.
When I worked for a Walmart Neighborhood market we of course had self-checkout terminals. We actually had four of these helpful yet somehow annoying machines. We also kept four cashiers on duty for normal days, and seven on busy days. Mind you only two or three may actually be on registers, while the others would be working on tasks, and be available as backups if we suddenly got busy. The machines from our point were life savers. Because some customers chose to utilize the machines this reduced our wait times, and workload; which in turn helped to keep our labor costs down for the store. We all enjoyed the lower labor costs, as when labor was in order we would often get food catered in about every two weeks. So for those of us working at the store we loved the machines.
Because I was a Customer Service Manager I was responsible for looking after the machines, as well as the customers utilizing them. This often meant a good portion of my day went to performing overrides, as well as helping customers read that little sticker on their fruits and vegetables that told you what to input because customers were often too incompetent to read a four digit number by themselves even watching instructions on the screen.
I was also responsible for counting the machines at the end of the night, as well as placing in new money tracks for the next day. I would have to count the money to verify every machine was correct including all of the coinage. I would also have to count all the coupons, which were always wrong. This process for the four machines in our store took me and one other CSM on average about an hour. All while counting the regular tills (we had 12) usually took about forty five minutes. So while it was saving us labor during the day, we were taking much longer to actually count them vs traditional registers.
When I worked for Walmart I often heard, especially from the older community that they would refuse to use self-checkout terminals because they felt that the machines were “stealing” jobs away from cashiers. This always stuck with me as I really feel the opposite was true Not only can a store like mine not financially keep an additional four cashiers on duty at all times, but it is impractical. On slower days where we really only needed three or four cashiers, we would only be wasting labor. This as well as the scheduling problems that would arise from needing an additional 336 hours of availability from four cashiers at twelve hours a day, and seven days a week. Because many cashiers for the company and others alike are part time this would mean needing to hire an additional 14 cashiers at 25 hour weeks. If each one of them were paid the average of $8.50 an hour that means the company would need to spend an additional $2856 on labor.
Some would argue that this would help create more jobs, and I will agree that it would, but the increased labor costs would have to be passed on to consumers, as larger companies such as Walmart or Target work for the shareholders. This means that they need to have large profits to stay on the public spotlight and therefore realistically they need to cut costs in the most practical ways possible.
I know this one was a bit long, but I really felt like I could give another perspective on why self-checkout terminals are in stores. They do not steal jobs, they may prevent too many new jobs being created, but this is ultimately to increase profits and dividends to shareholders. Many of us in retail enjoy the machines, even if that does mean more work at the end of the day.