Self-Checkouts Kill Jobs

The graphic here came from one of my Facebook friends and I agree with her.  I know I am an advocate for automation but it is not always a good thing. This may be one of those times. Let me explain why.

I know there is a big chunk of our American society who just don’t have the skills to compete in our very technology-driven workforce. Some never learned to take learning as a lifelong goal. Some had learning beaten out of them at an early age. Some are just too lazy to do the work that learning requires.  

I also know that education levels vary very significantly between those who live in urban areas vs those in rural areas.  Much of that probably has to do with the lack of availability of education funding and adequate technology.  Education is definitely not an equal opportunity thing in the urban/rural debates.

If or maybe until all of us have skills not easily replace by automation, we need to keep a certain level of low skill jobs available. Supermarket checkouts should be part of that group.  

Getting to reason #3 on the above list, why would someone want to do all that work instead of letting someone else do it for them? 

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Self-Checkouts Kill Jobs

  • I do have some thoughts on this.😊
    The only place I ever shop that has self checkouts is Wal-Mart. When my husband was alive, he refused to use them for the two reasons above, but…

    My experience is that the Walmart’s with or without them have the same understaffed number of open checkout lanes and it is faster to me to use the self checkouts and a little putting stuff in a bag and sticking in a credit card is nothing.

    I also go to Aldi which has no self checkouts, but the big difference is those cashiers are FAST. That must be the priority in their training and hiring and it makes a huge difference. At Walmart, they are slow and can get into conversations with the customer beyond simple friendliness. It’s all in the cashiers training and emphasis on efficiency.

    I don’t find it inconvenient of extra work to bag my own.

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    • Thanks for your input Mary. Our local WalMart in a town of 2,000 doesn’t have self-checkouts but the ones in a nearby larger town do. I have used self-checkouts at Target because that is about all they have. What do you do with people without marketable skills when all the low paying jobs disappear? That is the concern for this post.

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      • That’s very true as robots will take over some of these jobs as well. Maybe more emphasis on tech schools, nurses schools, travel industry….jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree…mechanics, medical techs etc…

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  • I use brick and mortar stores for almost all of my shopping. I think that there is more call for this IF you want to save low income jobs. Amazon is killing the corner market and almost every other store in the world. To center it on self check out blames those of us who actually GO to stores for the decrease in jobs…..
    Saying that- I check myself out- everywhere I go. I am particular about how my bags are packed. (Aldi does check you out- but you bag it yourself).
    Last, I will never speak ill of Walmart. They are excellent at serving the underserved. I appreciate that they are willing to stay in rural communities- and cater to local needs. Our Walmart is flooded with Amish buggies during canning season and just before winter- or wedding season (like now). It isn’t the place for the rich- but it is a great place to buy heavy cloth for clothing!

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    • We don’t need to stop progress because it eliminates jobs but we do have to have a way to make sure we don’t have people dying in the streets. That is way above my pay grade, but at least I can do a little by using checkout people as long as job exists. If they don’t meet your quality of service then I guess self-checkouts are the way to go.

      Walmart is about the only retailer still available in our small town except for CVS and the fast-food places. They are closing Walmarts now that are underperforming so even their future is uncertain in the coming ages. Sears lasted for 100 years but things move so much faster now I wonder if Walmart can accomplish that feat?

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  • Sure let’s keep the low/no skill jobs but then we need to be sure to maintain the social safety net so that society supplements the low wages to the point a person can live on them. And we need to either agree these jobs are necessary and the social net is necessary for these jobs to be long-term employment so people can actually use them as their only means of work.

    This is an extremely complex issue that is not going to be solved by not using self-checkouts. Some stores place item limits on self-checkouts as they are there for convenience for small purchases so that may help. Also, customer visits are not level during the day and you would have checkers standing around doing nothing during lulls in traffic or you would then pull people off the floor to fill in for check out. Either way, you don’t add workers you just shift where they work. This is what Aldi does.

    I think self-checkouts for a low number of items are way more convenient than a checker, at least in the bigger stores. Most of the time the checkers have long lines and you have to wait.

    What would happen if we raised the prices when using a self-checkout. Like automatically adding 10% to all the prices to encourage people to use the cashier. You pay for convenience. Some industries actually go the other way and charge more to use a person vs do it yourself.

    People are high cost and businesses want them out of the equation. In addition, low wage jobs typically attract people with other issues about holding a job that creates issues for the business. They can be unreliable, etc.

    Aldi is faster since the checkers don’t have to bag items. Bagging slows things down. Also with the limited selection at Aldi the number of items per shopper is much lower than at WalMart or Krogers.

    As you read Eudaimonia you must know that a business is only there to make money. This is a social issue. I’m not expecting businesses to handle this problem.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts Bob, you certainly make a lot of points. My point of this post is that there has to be a way for low skill workers to exist, especially in rural areas where most of the Trumpsters live. So many people, especially we Americans, think there is a silver bullet for any problem. No, I don’t think checkout jobs will solve low skill employment, they are simply one of a thousand things that may be needed.

      Just a few minutes ago I was in a Kroger grocery store where there were once 14 checkout lanes. Now there are 6 with 10 self-checkouts. I did have to wait maybe 3 minutes longer to use a person but at least I got a smile and a “thank you” when I left. Yes, businesses are totally dedicated to their stockholders now, so I can certainly see the day when you will not see any person except customers in most stores.

      Since even the simple solutions are not getting addressed by our current gridlocked Congress, I don’t have any hope that low skilled workers safety nets will get much attention right now. Is this just another issue we need to be fearful of?

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  • RJ you hit the nail on the head. We do need to keep jobs for all the folks that for whatever reason will never have an Engineering degree. That is one of the reasons we need manufacturing jobs. If everyone was capable of being an Engineer then they would be worth about $10 hr. I think folks that are well off do not always consider that we need to maintain lower paying jobs for those that need them. The same way people with health insurance do not consider the consequences to low income folks that do not have it. Let them get an education and earn it the way I did. If by the luck of the draw any of us was born with 30 or 40 points less IQ where exactly do you think we would end up? Many people will never have high paying jobs. Issues range from low IQ, lack of opportunity, family issues to mental health problems. This is the very basis of Social Security. It is not a retirement account it is a social insurance policy. It is skewed towards lower income people on purpose. Bob is correct, business will never solve this problem. Business by its very nature is self serving and would be considered a sociopath if it were an individual. These are the conversations the American people need to have but seldom do.

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    • Thanks for the thoughts Fred, I agree with all the reasons for people not have the skills they need for higher paying jobs. Another one I might add relates to a good friend of mine. He made some stupid decisions earlier in life he has a “felon” label attached to his name. That and with some seizure episodes also related to that same event he is unable to find any kind of meaningful employment. Minimum wage or not.

      What you are talking about is obviously empathy. I seem to have that gushing out my deaf ears but it seems many others don’t even have an ounce of it and are unable to even understand it. I think that is one of the primary differences between the “red” and “blue” tribes.

      Liked by 1 person

  • A further thought…
    2 states (Washington and NJ I think) do not allow a customer to pump their own gas. An attendant has to do it. People in those state hate it. Why? The State is trying to keep jobs even if they are low paying but noooo I just can’t pay an extra few cents for gas even if it means it will create a job for someone. Personally, I’d love to go back to at least have the option of an attendant pump my gas and clean my windshield, check my oil and stuff. I’d pay a few cents more. Especially if it created a job.

    Our real problem here, or at least the root of the problem, is that we want the cheapest stuff possible and we don’t seem to care that this impacts the workforce. We complain we can’t find help in stores but are not willing to pay more to have the help available. We shop online often, not just for the convenience, but because brick and mortar stores don’t have what we need or can’t keep it in stock. Inventory is expensive.

    If you want to know what is killing manufacturing in this country is logistics. I can get anything I want from anyplace in the world in a few days or a week. Eyeglasses here are expensive and still take a week or 2 to get but I can go online to GlassesUSA and get them much less expensively and in less time. Even though they come directly from Thailand. (GlassesUSA???) Shipping has become so inexpensive and timely I don’t really need a local store anymore. People order stuff online that they can actually get at the same price and easier locally. So local jobs will return when we stop making shipping so easy and inexpensive.

    So where are the jobs for the low skilled? Go to a city and work for Amazon, or another logistics company, UPS, FedEx, the post office, etc. But you have to move. I live in Indiana not too far from Indy. Virtually every business here has a help wanted signs up -even the post office. Sure, not the best paying jobs always but there are jobs. So perhaps one solution to the issue might be to realize the jobs are in the cities and you will have to find a way to access them.

    I know this sounds like I do not care about the rural folks, which is not true, I see the issues all around me here in Indiana. But the world is changing and we just have to figure out how to deal with it.

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