Growing number of Australians want self-service check-outs ‘abandoned’

An overwhelming number of Australians would be in favour of retailers abandoning self-service check-outs.

While the facilities were first implemented nearly a decade ago by stores, both at home and abroad, in the hope of speeding up lines and cutting labour costs by reducing the number of cashiers, a handful of global supermarket chains are now reconsidering their approach.

Neither of our two major grocery giants – Coles and Woolworths – intend to follow suit.

But a poll conducted on Facebook by news.com.au found the vast majority would be in favour of stores doing so.

Of the more than 6000 people who voted, over 5,400 said they want self-service check-outs “abandoned” – compared to just 840 who think they should stay.

In the comments, dozens of Aussies also said they stand behind the need for both manned and self-service registers.

“Personally I love self service but understand that there are those that find them overwhelming. A mix of both is good,” one wrote.

“I’m quite happy to do my own. Then it’s packed just how I like it!” said another.

A third commented: “It would be nice to have a choice. Sometimes I like self check-out and sometimes I prefer assisted.”

“Have both,” agreed another. “No one wants to stand in a cue (sic) for one item. But also ensure that all registers are open during busy times.”

“Nah love them. Sometimes at the end of a long day, you want to get in and out without interacting with anyone,” one person said.

“Should also always have manned check-outs for those who prefer.”

It comes after Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci last week addressed one of shoppers’ biggest gripes with self-service.

In a “grocery inflation” update sent to customers in late November, Mr Banducci responded to the question of whether the supermarket giant’s “focus on technology (and prices) [is] coming at the expense of our Team”. Those who complain about the presence of the facilities often argue they’re “reducing the number of jobs”.

But, in his email, Mr Banducci insisted there are now “more jobs at Woolies, not less”.

“Self-service check-outs and the perception that this results in a reduction in team members in-store is a passionate dinner table topic in our house,” he wrote.

“The fact is, we employ more people than ever before and, with the popularity of online ordering, this year we’ve hired 5500 Personal Shoppers, so there’s more jobs at Woolies not less.”

A Coles spokesperson, meanwhile, said self-service check-outs are a “great option” for customers as they deliver “convenience and efficiency”.

“Because of this they are the checkout of choice for more than two in three customers, and we continue to see those numbers increase,” the spokesperson previously told news.com.au.

“Over the past year, we have seen greater customer satisfaction and uptake in our self-service options. Of course, if customers prefer to be served by a team member, someone will always be available in the service area to serve them.

“We have never been more committed to supporting Australians with employment opportunities, having recruited an additional 22,000 Team Members compared to five years ago.”

Both Coles and Woolies have introduced a stream of security measures over the past 12 months in a bid to fight back against shoplifting, which experts estimate costs the Australian retail industry a whopping $9 billion each year.

Comparison website Finder recently found that people are stealing from shops, service stations and cafes in record numbers as the cost of living rises – with five per cent of respondents admitting they’d stolen items when using self-check-outs.

Four per cent, meanwhile, said they’d lied about what they had scanned – telling the computer it was weighing onions, for example, instead of avocados.

It’s prompted retailers everywhere, leading US credit analyst Matt Schulz said, to “wrestle” with whether self-service check-outs are worth keeping if it means an increased risk of theft.

“While self-checkout is convenient, it certainly poses a risk for shoplifting,” Mr Schulz, who works for personal finance website LendingTree, told CBC.

“Ultimately, retailers need to decide whether the self-checkout terminals are worth the risk.

“I don’t think self-checkout is going to go away entirely, but I think we’re going to see a lot of retailers swing back into a more balanced choice for shoppers.”

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