With the rise of self-checkouts, do we still need cashiers?

18 February 2015
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Number of people impacted : 3.338.900 in the US

“That’s 28 euro please…”
Cashiers, whether they are in a supermarket, a fast food restaurant or an average retail shop will soon disappear. With the increasing digitisation of our money and changes in our buying behaviour, a person is needed less and less to check the price of your purchases and give you back your change.

There are many technologies that are pushing cashiers into unemployment. However, the biggest threat to cashiers and probably almost every retail job is the use of e-commerce applications. 

E-commerce is where people order via their mobile device or computer and has been on a steady rise year after year. It is estimated to surge to an almost 1.5 trillion euro turnover in 2015 and will grow by 15% over the next few years.

Automated checkouts 

Whether you like it or not, capitalism and automation are best friends. Enabling customers to receive their goods and pay for it, without requiring someone to process your payment, is good for the bottom line. 

Take a look at McDonalds, who already ordered 7.000 automated cashiers in Europe during 2011; it is the same thing with a US fast food giant, Panera Bread, which intends to have kiosks instead of cashiers by 2016. With over 1800 points of sale, this will affect many cashiers. 

Scanning your product bar code with your cell phone and then paying via your digital wallet, may sound like science-fiction to you but this is already possible within companies like Apple Inc. and J C Penney’s, a large US retailer.

Self-scan cashiers 

Self checkout vs CashiersYou may have encountered this yourself: a machine in a grocery store where you need to scan the goods you have chosen and pay for them via a self-check out. These self-check out machines have a couple of advantages – apart from the purely financial benefits a company has after installing them. 

They give people control over their shopping experience, similar to our current banking experience where we use cash withdrawal desks and internetbanking (or ‘netbanking’) software. You feel in charge and you get the feeling you’re not ‘wasting time’ if you can take care of the task yourself. 

That control also extends to the belief everything is correctly registered. Take away the human out of the equation and it will be done better. Or at least, so we presume. Finally, these drive privacy. You may not feel comfortable with your cashier knowing you bought condoms or only in-house brands. 

Although the number of these machines may have been growing exponentially, some stores like IKEA have been removing these machines, claiming they extend check out times and drive down the customer experience. However, if technology advances – take a look at ITABs Easyflow technology –  it may just be a matter of time before it will be performing better. 

This is not a clear-cut case

It is up to us to decide what we value most: efficiency and (perceived) time gain, or social contact within our communities. Many options exist to get rid of that person taking care of your purchases. Which one do you prefer?

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Categories:   Our economy today
Bruno Delepierre

Societal entrepreneur who wants to contribute to our quality of life. Married to Soetkin, dad of Jacqueline. General coordinator at Happonomy.

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