Target announces changes to self-checkout lanes, is Walmart next?

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(KTLA) – Target is rolling out new changes to its self-checkout lanes that limit how many items customers can purchase.

Beginning on March 17, conventional self-checkout lanes will become express self-checkout lanes at nearly 2,000 stores nationwide. The new lanes are designed for customers with 10 items or less, the company announced Thursday.

Store leaders will have the flexibility to open more lanes as needed, but Target announced those express self-checkout lanes will be open during the busiest shopping times.

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Consumers and businesses have a complex relationship with self-checkout lanes. A study published in February 2021 found that 67% of shoppers said they had experienced a failure while using a self-checkout machine.

Retailers have also shared that installing the machines can be expensive and lead to higher shoplifting rates than traditional checkout methods, according to The Atlantic.

Despite the hardship, they can still be found in stores like Walmart, Costco and Dollar General.

As for Target, the retailer is still investing in human cashiers in addition to self-checkout lanes.

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“We’re opening more traditional lanes staffed by our team members across all our stores for guests who have more in their Target carts, need a helping hand, or just enjoy connecting with our team to help them get on their way sooner,” a news release said.

“We’re also continuing to invest in additional training to ensure that our teams can continue to provide great guest service during the checkout.”

Target customers still have the option of using drive up and same-day delivery services to pickup items without walking into a physical location.

Customers can also utilize the company’s order pickup services.

Is Walmart also changing its policy?

While Walmart made no public mention of any changes to its self-checkout policy Thursday, reported that some shoppers claim their local Walmarts restricted the lanes to Walmart+ members and Spark delivery drivers only.

“This is the second time this week that I’ve gone to Walmart, and this is a different Walmart, and it’s been right about this time, and all their self-checkouts are closed and they’ve started to open up the regular lines again,” one person said on TikTok.

Some have speculated that retailers are restricting self-checkout to crack down on shoplifting. A December report from San Francisco site called a Target decision to reportedly remove some self-checkouts “a trend in ‘defensive retailing’ that may soon spread across the city.”

Brian K. Little, global communications director with Walmart Corporate Affairs, told Nexstar Thursday that such self-checkout changes aren’t new and may happen for different reasons.

From time-to-time, our stores adjust the use of staffed checkouts and self-checkouts. For example, a store might start or end the day with staffed checkouts. As the number of shoppers and associate staffing increases, these stores open self-checkout registers to manage the increased customer flow. This process isn’t new.

During these times of limited access, some stores are designating select self-checkout stations for Walmart+ customers using our Scan and Go service and Spark drivers for quicker access and delivery services. This decision is intended to better manage checkout availability.

Walmart Global Communications Director Brian K. Little

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