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And replace those cashiers with people who have other job titles to manage inventory shrinkage. There's no getting around the fact that you need eyes near the doors to make sure that everything gets paid for, and you need enough eyes to monitor the traffic: more parallel traffic, more eyes needed. (Anecdotally, I see more staff at self-serve checkouts than at cash registers in stores that have both, yet the cashier lines move more quickly than the "more convenient" kiosks.) I'm sure there's an ideal world living in some people's minds, but it's not part of the external reality and probably never will be.

I avoid self checkout - slow and inconvenient. But it's just a matter of improving the technology: we'll get there eventually.

I avoid self-checkout because the entire machine is usually set up around the assumption that I will try to walk out of the store without paying for one or more items, or by futzing the bar codes so that I pay $1 for a $30 beef roast.

The self-checkout technology will never improve as long as that assumption remains. If you can't trust the customer to not steal a pack of gum, you can't trust the customer to not steal an entire beef tenderloin.

The professional cashier does not need to keep every damned item on a giant scale after scanning it, because they are an agent of the store, and presumably trustworthy enough to notice and stop shoplifters and scammers. And they usually don't have to halt the entire checkout process and wait for a manager to come by and restart it whenever anything even mildly out of the ordinary happens, such as using a coupon.

You can't improve the technology when the premises are wrong. And the premise is that you can turn a grocery store into a glorified vending machine.

If we put an RFID tag on every item and use an RFID gate then we would just have to walk past the gate which is capable of detecting every item without you having to take it out of your cart or bag. A turnstyle could then force you to pay and disable the RFID tags. Cost and transmission distance of passive RFID tags are the major obstacles, I believe.

How do you detect RFID tampering or the use of RFID-blocking shopping bags or pouches?

Remember, the store is more interested in protecting its operating margins than in providing more convenience for the customer. If the technology does not allow a store exec to believe that it can stop a $30 steak from walking out the door unpaid, it will never be installed.

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