Army & Air Force Exchange Service Adds Self-Checkout Option

The DIY units will free up staff to assist customers with more specialized services.
Logo for the Army Air Force Exchange

DALLAS — Over the next few months, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) plans to roll out 500 self-checkout units at its military department stores.

The DIY stations will be available at AAFES exchanges, convenience stores and specialty locations all across the globe, according to Stars and Strips.

"Self-checkout allows more customers to be served, improves in-store productivity and increases the availability of associates on the sales floor to assist customers with purchase decisions," AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said in an email to Stars and Stripes.

Ward declined to reveal how much the project cost, except to say the expense associated with self-checkout equipment was minimal relative to the new efficiencies and that self-checkout would have "no impact on staffing." Employees who previously staffed checkout lanes will instead focus on answering customer questions or providing specialized service.

The move follows in the footsteps of the Defense Commissary Agency, which installed self-checkout lanes 14 years ago at its supermarkets on U.S. military bases. The update also aligns with AAFES's continued expansion over the last few years, including the opening of more than 90 new mini-market locations in 2021 and 2022.

The exchange at Yokota Air Base, home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, has already put four self-checkout machines into service as of Oct. 19.

Store manager Andrew Defelice said store employees stand by to assist customers when their items fail to properly scan. Employees must also approve sales of alcohol and over-the-counter medicines that have age restrictions. Meanwhile, staff who once manned the registers will spend more time taking inventory or working on store displays.

However, not all customers are ready to embrace the self-service checkout. Air Force veteran Jerry Deyoe, a contractor visiting Yokota, said he'll still sometimes visit the cashiers.

"I'll wait in line to have some human interaction," he told the news outlet.

Since 1895, AAFES has helped soldiers, airmen, guardians and their families to improve the quality of their lives by providing valued goods and services at exclusive military pricing. The Dallas-based company is the 54th-largest retailer in the United States and currently operates 3,500 facilities consisting of department stores, convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, theaters and specialty stores on military installations in all 50 states, five U.S. territories and 33 countries.