Self-checkout is Leaving Big Box Stores

Some Canadian Tires Across Canada have removed non-assisted checkouts, reversing the decision to use technology in retail.

Customers paying for their items are used to having the option to self-pay with self-checkout machines. But now, chains, including Canadian Tire have removed the option at certain locations.

The hardware franchise has opted to go back to full-time cashiers despite the additional costs and slower checkout times.

Canadian Tire North Bay Store Owner Dwayne Ouelette says many prefer the option to pay upfront.

“I’m not comfortable using them, and I don’t think some of my customers are comfortable either.”

Ouelette mentions machines cannot assist customers with product needs or inquiries at stores with a lot of hardware accessories.

“I’d rather my customers see my cashiers, and if there’s any questions or concerns, at least there’s somebody they can talk to.”

Canadian Tire recently cut 3% of its workforce as consumers have slowed down their spending. The company released an email, saying reciepts and bagchecks are left to individual store owners, as big-chains have thousands of employees.

In America, three Walmart’s in Albuquerque stopped using self-checkout, with one location closing entirely due to “underperformance and criminals,” said the American Chain.

England grocery chain, Booth’s Supermarket, removed the options in a dozen locations.

With that in mind, David Ivan Gray, A retail Adviser at Vancouver-based DIG360 Consulting. says friction has been created between customers, with many expressing disappoint and feeling forced to use self-checkout.

Gray notes “A big theft issue,” as employees cannot oversee theft, when items are being scanned or left from the store.

Theft is Very Common

In a published survey done in 2022 for 93 retailers worldwide, 23 percent of financial losses came from store errors or unpurchased items.

LendingTree, a financial website in the U.S., conducted a survey, finding that 15 percent of Americans who participated in the survey of 2,000 people said they stole items, and 21 percent had no clue the item was not scanned.

“That’s an awful lot of people who are walking away from self-checkout without paying for stuff,” said LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz. “For all the upside that there is with self-checkout for retailers, there’s a lot of risk as well.”

The Retail Council of Canada said retailers have seen a 300-percent increase in theft since 2019 in Canada.

The Retail Council says understanding the amount of stolen items is hard to gauge, considering not all opt to be open about numbers.

Some customers use a trick known as the”Carrot Trick,” such as inputting the code for carrots when scanning pricier produce without barcodes, like lemons.

Skip-scanning is another trick, where customers put an item into the bagging area without inputting it into their total costs.

Derek Shogren, General Manager of Canadian Tire North Bay, says the decision to remove self-checkout was more for a new system for all shoppers to wait for a cashier rather than theft.

“The flow is a lot better,” he said. “Canadian Tires carry so many big products, whether it’s snowblowers, gazebos, generators that don’t really lend themselves to self-checkouts.”

Junaid Chaudhry, General Manager of Canadian Tire Mississauga, said removing checkouts makes Canadian Tire more “customer focused,” and “It’s not relying on the customer to do the job for the retailer.”

So, What Now?

Many customers still enjoy the convenience of independent cash-outs, and with rising costs, self-checkout disappearing is not a viable option. Four Self-Checkout lanes cost over 100,000 dollars, according to Cardfellow. Compare that to the average Canadian minimum worker making 30,000 dollars a year, with chances to miss shifts and self-checkouts looks tantalizing to companies.

A survey done by LendingTree suggests that 40 percent of customers use self-checkouts frequently.

“I think when customers feel they’re being forced into something, it builds up resentment,” he said. “I don’t think self-checkout’s going to go away entirely, but I think we’re going to see a lot of retail swing back into a more balanced choice for for shoppers, said Gray.

Shoprite drugstores in America faced this issue, getting backlash about its self-checkout machines, eventually returning cashiers to it’s locations.

Updates to Self-Checkouts machine are already in place for some, like Circle-K, which includes reward programs and promotions.

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