Editorial: Leave it to the (super)market to decide self-checkout machines

Editorial: Leave it to the (super)market to decide self-checkout machines

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Grceory Outlet checker Makayla Wylie bags groceries Friday for Sara Massey and her daughter Peyton Anderson-Massey, 10, earlier this month.

Do we really need a statewide vote on the topic of self-checkout kiosks in grocery stores?

A petition to limit grocery stores to two of the machines will be circulating soon, and it could result in a ballot measure put before Oregon voters in November.

Mid-valley residents have a wide range of viewpoints on the issue of self-checkout, so it’s not surprising that there’s already been a healthy discussion on the topic of increased regulation.

Many of our friends never use the self-checkout kiosks because they are afraid the machines will cost jobs. And that’s the reason labor groups are backing the initiative petition. Others like the additional layer of customer service provided by a human working at the cash register, and we’ve occasionally been handed additional store coupons from attentive checkers.

A few of us prefer self-checkout in all instances because it can be faster or provides a bit more protection for goods. (Have you heard a very particular shopper complain about a bagging error, such as household cleaners being placed next to fruit? Egads.) Self-checkout also provides a bit more privacy, either for those who are purchasing sensitive products or for those who don’t want to make idle chit-chat with a stranger after a long and frustrating day of work.

We believe that most mid-valley residents have a mixed viewpoint, preferring checkers but opting to use self-checkout kiosks when it is convenient, such as if they’re just buying a handful of items and lines at the aisles are lengthy.

Regardless, customers have choices. And each time they shop and buy items in a supermarket, they are essentially making a sort of vote on the topic anyway. That includes the stores that they frequent as well.

Some grocers may have 10 or more self-checkout kiosks, and for certain residents, that’s a valuable selling point.

Other markets have none. Going against the grain, fighting against the rise of the machines and offering better customer service at checkout is actually a competitive advantage for some businesses.

Customers can choose where they shop and how they shop, including purchasing items online and arriving at the store merely for pickup. Who knows? Perhaps combating the scourge of online grocery shopping is the next initiative on the horizon.

Even if the self-checkout measure passed, there’s no guarantee that stores would respond by opening a plethora of additional checkout aisles. The probable impact is that customers would likely have to wait in line longer to purchase their groceries, or they could pay higher prices.

We’re guessing that if Oregonians get the chance to vote on the matter, the measure would be shot down in flames.

It seems like common sense to let the marketplace decide this issue, and, as we’ve stated earlier, that’s already occurring to a large degree.


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