The holiday shopping season has arrived, and many of us have a full list of friends and family to buy for. Browsing online certainly makes it easy to have gifts delivered to your doorstep, but some of us still prefer to have that in-store shopping experience. After all, who can resist seeing their favorite shop decked out for the holidays? But if you plan to do your shopping at major retailers, you should anticipate some changes to the way you pay, and it might not be to your liking. Read on to find out how stores like Kohl's and Uniqlo are altering the checkout process.
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There are more and more convenient ways to pay at the register.
Stores have made many updates to how shoppers pay in recent years. Now you can simply tap your credit card against a machine rather than swiping, or use your mobile wallet—like Google Pay or Apple Pay—to complete the transaction with your phone. You can also skip the line and the checkout process altogether at stores that offer store pickup.
Popularized when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, curbside pickup allows you to place orders ahead of time and have an associate bring them out to your car. When restrictions eased, several retailers kept the same general concept in place with in-store pickup.
For its part, Kohl's initially allowed customers to retrieve orders at the customer service desk, later introducing self-pickup over the summer. The service lets shoppers place an order and retrieve it from a designated area within Kohl's stores.
Now, the retailer is joining the pack in piloting another checkout option.
You can expect to see fewer cashiers at retailers and department stores.
Self-checkout dates back to the 1980s, when it became available at supermarkets, and it later expanded to larger retailers like Walmart and Target, CNN Business reported. More recently, both discount and department stores have started introducing this option as well.
Kohl's is currently trying out self-checkout "at a handful of stores," per CNN Business, and clothing retailer Uniqlo has also started rolling out these stations at select stores. H&M has this option at three locations—a number that is expected to triple by the end of 2023—and Zara, Primark, and Bed Bath&Beyond also offer the opportunity to go through the checkout process on your own.
But while these machines are convenient, there are drawbacks.
Retailers want to cut costs.
Retailers can save money on labor costs by introducing self-checkout, as the machines don't require a cashier to man them and have the customers do the work instead, according to CNN Business. It's a natural move for retailers to slash expenses, and some customers view self-checkout as an easier and more efficient way to shop. However, not everyone agrees.
The move is generally opposed by unions, for one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that the number of cashiers in the U.S. is expected to decrease by 10 percent by 2031, resulting in the loss of roughly 335,700 jobs.
Many customers also take issue with self-checkout, as they can make errors while scanning and accidentally end up shoplifting. The concern has even led attorneys to caution the public against using these machines and landing themselves in legal trouble.
In addition, CNN Business cited a 2021 survey performed by store equipment supplier Raydiant, where customers were asked about the most common reason they avoid self-checkout. Researchers noted that some shoppers avoid self-checkout "no matter the quality of the experience," but the most common reason were past experiences where the machines didn't work (25 percent) or were too slow (22 percent).
Searching for "self-checkout" on social media will also yield videos from shoppers who've run into issues and become frustrated with these machines. One TikToker actually cited an issue with the machines at Zara, which required her to remove those pesky security tags herself and do "all the work."
However, there may be some promise that this issue can be avoided, as Uniqlo is testing a different self-checkout process.
Uniqlo has found a way around standard security tags.
There's nothing worse than getting home and realizing there's still a security tag on your new shirt or jeans. Trying to remove them yourself can be disastrous, as they have an ink cartridge that is purposely intended to explode to catch shoplifters. While Zara has self-checkout machines equipped to remove the tags, according to CNN Business, self-checkout machines don't generally have this capability, which is why wireless "radio frequency identification" (RFID) tags have been introduced.
Uniqlo has introduced these tags in stores, and the self-checkout machines don't even require customers to scan items—you just put them in a box at the self-checkout station and item prices are automatically calculated and displayed. One TikToker said that the machines are "the future," The U.S. Sun reported, but commenters noted that the tech is not necessarily "new," and has been used in Japan for several years.