business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has a story about how "Booths, a small chain that has sold groceries in northern England since 1847, has decided its customers belong to the latter category and announced this week that it will be getting rid of the self-checkouts in all but two of its 28 stores. They’re bucking a trend that has remade retail shopping around the world over the last 20 years … Booths, which has about 3,000 employees, said in a statement that having its employees interacting with customers provides for a better experience. “We have based this not only on what we feel is the right thing to do but also having received feedback from our customers,” the company said. 'Delighting customers with our warm northern welcome is part of our DNA'."

The story notes that "Self-checkouts have been on the rise around the world for the last 20 years. Many chains expanded their use during the height of the pandemic, when minimizing human contact was especially important. But Booths isn’t alone in rethinking the automated revolution: In September, Wal-Mart told Insider that it would remove the lanes from a handful of stores, though it did not say why.

"In 2016, a study of retailers in the United States, Britain and other European countries found that retailers with self-service lanes and apps had a loss rate of about 4 percent, more than double the industry average, with researchers saying self-checkout lanes tempted shoppers to act in ways they normally would not and made theft less detectable."

KC's View:

I find it distressing that we live in a world where the perception - and maybe the reality - is that a lot of people, when given the opportunity to steal, will steal.

Is that what we've come to?  Is this the generation that we've raised?

I've always believed that self-checkout ought to be a choice, one that some people will take advantage of and some will avoid like the plague.  Me, I love it.  Mrs. Content Guy hates it.  

But I also think that the whole "we have the warmest, friendliest checkout people" construct is delusional.  At some retailers, that's true.  But at the vast majority, not so much.  And I haven't even detected a major trend toward retailers instituting programs that will educate and compensate checkout folks so that they will live up to the hype.