Who's Checking on Self-Checkout?

Technology solutions only work when utilized correctly.
A customer at self-checkout

While running errands this past weekend, one stop on my to-do list was Kohl's. Because I mostly shop online, I don't often go to the store unless it is to return something. But I've noticed over the past six months that on every trip to the retailer, I have been greeted with a different checkout configuration. 

It started with the addition of a handful of self-checkout kiosks last fall, followed by the removal of a dedicated returns/pickup spot, and then a downsized staffed checkout area with half the number of registers and an expanded self-checkout space. 

My first thought upon entering the store this weekend was: It changed again?! My second thought was: How long before the executives at the corporate level reverse their decision on self-checkout when theft begins to rise? 

Now, I am not blaming self-checkout for the rise in retail crime. What struck me, though, was that Kohl's self-checkout did not have any staff assigned to the area — a perfect opportunity for unsavory actors to "forget" to scan that bathmat or pair of socks. 

[Read more: Self-Checkout Adoption Is On the Rise]

Self-checkout should not mean understaffed or, even worse, unstaffed. For one, it bolsters consumers' arguments that retailers are only adding self-checkout kiosks to avoid paying employees. More importantly, it takes away from the consumer experience. Who is there to help when an item is missing a price tag? Who is there to help when the system cannot find a customer's account? The list of questions goes on. 

I am a big proponent of self-checkout and, quite frankly, any technology that makes my shopping journey easier and faster, but technology only works when utilized correctly. Before a retailer flips the switch, they must be prepared for the inevitable hiccups. If not, that retailer may very well learn an expensive lesson on how not to utilize technology.

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