Do Self-Checkouts at the Grocery Store ‘Kill Jobs’?

self-checkouts at grocery store stealing jobs

It seems like people are choosing to use the self-checkout machines at grocery stores more and more nowadays. And with consumers embracing the new automated retail world, cashier jobs are quickly declining. But is the convenience of self-checkout machines really "killing jobs"? To some, it may appear to be, while others see that retail jobs are just evolving with the times.

As of right now, there are more than 3 million cashier jobs, with 74% of those jobs being held by women. But in the last 5 years alone, 50,000 cashier jobs have been lost, a trend that is expected to continue.

Many people who work as cashiers have become concerned about the rise of self-checkouts. For instance, Jade Lee Carpenter is a young, single mom in Cleveland, Ohio. Her only source of income comes from her cashier job.

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"I fully depend on my job as a cashier for my son and for myself to support where I live," Jade explains.

She has been a cashier for 3 years and shares that she has an advantage over self-checkout machines.

"I do think that I sell more products because I know what [customers] want and I can have it ready for them as soon as they walk up to the counter."

Self-Checkouts Taking Over Grocery Stores

Some cashiers are holding on tightly to their jobs. Others have seemed to accept the automation of their cashier role. Caleb Kulick, a cashier in Plover, Wisconsin, is one of those people.

"There's no way to stop it," he says. "A Target in my town just switched over to self-checkouts. And suddenly a job which used to require four employees now only requires one."

Marc Perronne is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. This organization represents 1.3 million retail, grocery, and food processing workers. He explains that his organization is working on helping its members go back to school for continuing education or associate's degrees, in order to help with the decline of available cashier jobs.

"It does worry me, because I do believe that these entry-level jobs that are applied in retail and some of the other jobs that are around, will ultimately be automated out of existence," says Marc. "People generally look at technology as a good thing, and I look at technology as a good thing, but when it comes to a point that many people are going to be put on the street … I think as a society we have to start talking about it. Our organization has decided that we're going to try to provide as much educational opportunity as we can to give them the tools for whatever comes next."

Amazon Stores Eliminate Entire Checkout Process

One glimpse of the future can be seen in Seattle. Here, Amazon has created an experimental convenience store. One that has eliminated the entire checkout process, making the role of cashiers non-existent. Customers just grab what they want, put them in their bag, and walk out. The charges from what they put in their bag will be scanned as they walk out of the door and will be billed to their Amazon Prime accounts.

But Amazon wants to let people know that they still have employees working at this type of store, just not in cashier positions.

"At Amazon Go, our associates work in both the kitchen and the store, prepping ingredients, making breakfast, lunch and dinner items, greeting customers at the door, stocking shelves and helping customers," states the company. "We're simply shifted how associates spend their time so they can focus on the tasks that will make the biggest impact in helping to deliver a great experience for our customers."

Other Jobs Still Needed In Grocery Stores With Self-Checkout

Even with the trial of totally automated grocery stores, retail jobs have not disappeared altogether. According to the Bureau of Labor, the retail industry continues to grow even with self-checkout machines on the rise. The thing that is changing is the job descriptions of these roles. has seen that among the top twenty skills required by employers for retail and customer service jobs, cashiering skills actually disappeared from that list in 2018. But one skill that employers are increasingly marking as important is customer relationship management. This skill is ranked as the third most important on their list, behind customer service and communication skills.

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So, while cashier jobs may be declining, self-checkout machines may not be "killing" all jobs. They may just look different in the future. We still need people to do many jobs in the retail and service industry. Those jobs just may be beyond the check-out counter.

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