Store cashiers may soon go the way of 8-track cassettes, land lines, and dodo birds. Walmart is now testing an all-self-checkout Supercenter in Plano, reports the Dallas Morning News, after successfully rolling the service out at a Walmart in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
According to Matt Smith of Walmart Corporate Affairs, the goal of the new service is to eliminate lines that stack up behind conventional checkout lanes. In the Plano store, all the lanes are gone, replaced by 34 registers that line the edge of a wide-open area. Cashiers have turned into “hosts” who greet and assist customers at the self-checkout area.
The DMN quotes a customer who worries about the store’s employees, but likes the new checkout routine: “Now there’s never a line, and there used to always be lines here.”
Checkout help remains an option
If you can’t stand hearing “unidentified item in baggage area,” don’t worry—a host will check you out if you prefer it that way. It will just happen at one of the self-checkout stations.
That “host” human interaction is meant to be part of this new self-checkout experience. It’s kind of like meeting a Walmart greeter when you enter the checkout area, who’ll help you get through the process.
Why the new checkout system is faster
Smith wrote a blog post last year about the Fayetteville test, and explained why going all-self-checkout speeds things up.
The first difference: visibility. With traditional checkout lines it’s hard to see which lanes are open, how much is stacked on each conveyer belt, and which lane is the best bet to get you out fastest. So shoppers steer toward the “shortest” line—which can turn out to be a slow choice after all.
Another challenge: a sudden rush of lots of shoppers checking out. When dozens and dozens of people line up at once, it can take time to find additional cashiers to open more lanes.
34 registers are now always open
In the new layout, 34 self-checkout registers are always open. There’s no need to open and close lanes, since the new layout is always ready for any kind of customer traffic.
Room for safe social distance
“When we we had the old register layout, you have the sense that there is only a limited amount of space to checkout at,” said Fayetteville Store Manager Carl Morris in the blog post. “Now when they walk in, it’s wide open. Any choice they want and any amount of help they need, we can offer them.”
That means more safe social distance within the open area, giving people plenty of room to maneuver, compared to the tight spaces of narrow traditional aisles.
Only one day of training required
Traditional cashiers require 40 hours of training to operate a register, Smith writes. With the new layout, training takes less than a day, allowing “hosts” to help customers faster.
Workers who used to be cashiers are now interacting with customers in other ways. Freed from life in a cashier lane, they’re more mobile and have more variety in what they do, including being helpful to shoppers around the store without a big barrier between them.
“Now they get to run returns out to the store. They get to go to produce and bring someone a fresh apple that’s not bruised,” Matt Downing, a frontend team lead in the Fayetteville store, said in the blog post. “They feel like they’re a part of the store now.”
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