In a world where corporate greed took center stage, the decision to replace cashiers with self-checkout machines was made to cut costs, but it came at a significant cost to customers and employees alike. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, highlighted that this move was economically driven, showing little concern for customers’ preferences. It’s no surprise that customers were not pleased with this change from the very beginning.
While companies believed they could save up to 66 percent by replacing human cashiers with machines, the reality was quite different. According to CNN, a staggering 67 percent of shoppers found these self-checkout kiosks to be ineffective, often requiring human intervention to resolve issues. These machines were not only expensive to install but also prone to breakdowns, which led to reduced customer purchases and, ironically, increased shoplifting.
Long before this wave of self-checkout, the concept was first introduced by Piggly Wiggly in the 1900s, with the promise of lower prices in exchange for customers handling their own checkouts. Unfortunately, this promise seems to have faded over time.
Despite the evident shortcomings of self-checkout, corporations persisted in their adoption of this technology. Lawyer Carrie Jernigan, with a substantial following on TikTok, warned against using self-checkout. She highlighted how even unintentional mistakes by customers, like forgetting to scan an item, could lead to accusations of theft. Big-box stores were shown to have little mercy, going after customers who genuinely paid for their items but appeared short during inventory counts.
Jernigan emphasized that these corporations weren’t interested in determining intent, which meant customers could be charged with theft even if it was an honest mistake. Fighting such charges could consume significant time and money.
To address this issue, Jernigan suggested a simple solution for consumers: avoid self-checkout machines. Though it might mean waiting in line, it would ensure that a human cashier earns a wage. Additionally, she advocated for companies to offer better wages and benefits to attract employees, especially when the income disparity between CEOs and average workers had become alarmingly wide.
Ultimately, consumers held the power to influence change. They could choose not to support self-checkout and big-chain stores, potentially pushing corporations to reconsider their approach and prioritize fair treatment of both customers and employees.