Calif. lawmakers, unions eye limiting self-checkout machines at retailers

A new measure would increase requirements of staffing to man self-checkout machines to stop retail theft.

California lawmakers are eyeing a crackdown of sorts on self-checkout lanes at grocery stores and pharmacies in the state, with the backing of some law enforcement officials and unions in the hopes of stifling theft and preserving retail jobs.

What’s in the measure: Senate Bill 1446, the bill requires that there be one employee assigned to every two self-checkout stations. Furthermore, the assigned employee must be relieved of all other duties.


  • Grocery stores and pharmacies offering self-checkout options would need to include this in their analysis of potential work hazards for their injury and illness prevention programs.
  • The proposed legislation also mandates that retail establishments complete a specified assessment before implementing technology that affects essential job functions or eliminates jobs. The assessment must include information on salaries, benefits, jobs, and work hours that would be affected by workplace technology, such as self-checkout.
  • Retailers would be required to notify and seek input from their employees at least 60 days before drafting the study. The study would also need to be provided to employees or their collective bargaining representatives at least 60 days before implementation.

The big picture: Self-checkout machines have been linked to increased shrink, with losses accounting for 3.5 percent of sales, which is significantly higher than traditional cashier lanes. A survey found that 15 percent of respondents admitted to deliberately taking an item without scanning it.

  • In response to these issues, several grocers have implemented changes to reduce theft and shrink. Dollar General, Target, and Schnucks have all made adjustments to their self-checkout systems.
  • Dollar General plans to convert some or all self-checkout registers to associate-assisted checkout options in approximately 9,000 stores.
  • Target piloted the concept of Express Self-Checkout with a limit of 10 items or less at 200 stores, finding that self-checkout was twice as fast in these stores.
  • As a result, they have rolled out Express Self-Checkout at most of their almost 2,000 stores nationwide.
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