self checkout

Date Posted: 02/28/23

NCP Blog: Self Checkout: Love It or Leave It?

How do you feel about the self-checkout lanes in retail and grocery stores?


Back in January, we asked this question on our social media pages:
How often do you use self-checkout when shopping at a store with that option? Do you prefer using self-check or checking out with a cashier?


We knew this was a hot topic, but we had no idea we’d hear from so many of you! We received so many comments on this post, and panel members had very strong opinions.

What Exactly is Self-Checkout?


You’ve probably seen it at a store near you, but self-checkout is basically a way for customers at a business to complete their transaction without assistance from another person. There are several ways a business can implement it, and many different types of businesses offer some form of self-checkout.


Typically, we think about big-box retail and grocery stores where there’s a separate space for self-checkout, and customers not only scan their own items but also bag their own items, often without any interaction with the store’s staff.


Restaurants and other small businesses have also started to implement various self-check options and contactless ordering, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we’re going to focus on self-checkout in retail and grocery stores.


Where Did Self-Checkout Come From?


David Humble, the president of an electronics company, was waiting in line at a grocery store. He was fed up with the slow-moving cashier, grabbed the scanner, and started scanning his items himself. The experience led him to wonder: why can’t customers just scan their own items at the store?


Humble convinced his company to develop a prototype, and self-service checkout was born. The machines were first introduced to the public in 1986 at a Kroger store in Georgia.


While his idea was sparked by his frustration as a customer, the system as a whole was intended to lower stores’ labor expenses. The trend picked up during the 2001 recession and had a mixed response from customers. A 2003 Nielsen survey found that 52% of shoppers thought self-checkout was just “okay,” with 16% calling them frustrating. Another 32% of survey respondents said they were “great.”


Not surprisingly, the comments on our posts ranged from “I love it!” to “I hate it!” to everything in between.



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NCP panel members represent consumers all across the country by sharing their shopping experiences and opinions. If you’re not a panel member and you’re interested in joining NCP to share your shopping experiences, earn great rewards, and influence what you see on store shelves, click here or go to the Join NCP section of the blog!