California Safeway Stores Remove Self-Checkout Machines to Address Worrisome Trend

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Jun 16, 2024

In recent years, many customers have preferred to use self-checkout machines due to their convenience. However, due to a rise in shoplifting, many stores have removed these machines in favor of staffed checkout lanes.

Safeway is a recent store to join this trend in removing self-checkout machines. The store believes that these machines have partly contributed to the rise in shoplifting, and that is why they have been removed.

Customer Complains About Self-Checkout Machines

The introduction of self-checkout machines led many grocery store customers to believe it would make their shopping habits much easier as it would be quicker to get their shopping done.

A self-checkout machine with items and a basket in the bagging area.

Source: Jay Gooby/Wikimedia Commons

However, many problems have arisen with these machines in recent years, causing shoppers to become frustrated with them and want to go back to staffed checkout lanes. This includes the system breaking down, leading to longer waiting times and frustrated customers.


Safeway Removed Self-Checkout Machines in the Bay Area

Safeway stores in the Bay Area of California have recently had their self-checkout machines removed due to a rise in shoplifting in stores in this area.

A queue to use the self-checkout machines at Safeway. They are surrounded by various produce in the store.

Source: @joe_vacc/X

In a statement, the store said that they are “working on ways to curtail escalating theft,” which is being done so that the store can ensure employee safety and create a more welcoming environment for customers.

Bay Area Stores Are Experiencing a Rise in Shoplifting

Many other stores in the Bay Area have been experiencing a rise in shoplifting, which has led to them implementing various methods to try to combat this.

The outside of a Safeway store with a red car parked outside it.

Source: @goodmorningavl/X

One example is Fredericksen Hardware & Paint, which has implemented a strategy in which an employee will accompany a customer while they shop. 

Dollar General Has Removed Its Self-Checkout Machines

Safeway isn’t the first store to remove its self-check machines. Dollar General made the announcement at the end of 2023 that it would be making the move to remove these machines over the coming months.

The outside of a Dollar General store with cars parked outside.

Source: Tyler A. McNeil/Wikimedia Commons

This was due to similar reasons, such as the machines breaking down and causing long wait times, as well as it being easier for people to steal items from the store.

Walmart Is Removing Self-Checkout Machines

Walmart is another big-name store that is removing its self-checkout machines. This move is intended to give customers more personalized and efficient service when shopping.

The Walmart self-checkout next to shelves of produce.

Source: @OpenMothersMale/X

This comes after most retailers believe that organized shoplifting has become more prevalent in the last few years.


Gen Z Prefer Using Self-Checkout Machines

One generation that prefers to use these self-checkout machines is Gen Z. However, this is not because they are technically minded and prefer the speed of these machines.

A self-checkout machine in a store.

Source: Wolfmann/Wikimedia Commons

The reason given is that the use of these machines makes it easier for them to shoplift items, giving stores even more reason to ban the use of them.


Stores Are Closing Due to Shoplifting

The rise in shoplifting has led many stores to implement anti-theft policies. Some customers do not want to shop at these stores anymore because they do not like these new measures.

A sign in a window that says, “Sorry we’re closed.”

Source: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

A combination of shoplifting and boycotts has led to many stores having to close their doors as they were losing money, forcing customers to shop elsewhere.


Self-Checkout Machines Cause a Loss in Sales

Grabango, a company that provides checkout-free tech for stores, found that self-checkout machines cause a shrink that amounts to 3.5% loss in sales.

A self-checkout machine with a row of water bottles next to it.

Source: WhisperToMe/Wikimedia Commons

Shrink is an unknown or unaccounted loss of inventory. The most common form is partial shrink, where a customer pays for part of their shopping and shoplifts the rest.


Self-Checkout Machines Cause More Thefts Than Cashier Lanes

When 5,000 transactions from self-checkout machines were examined, it was found that these machines caused 16 times more losses than staffed checkout lanes.

A self-checkout machine with yellow bags in the bagging area.

Source: Gallowolf/Wikimedia Commons

While it is unknown whether these thefts were accidental or intentional, they do give stores further reason to get rid of these machines.


California Legislation to Restrict Self-Checkout Machines

Legislative action has recently been considered by the Californian government to restrict the use of self-checkout machines in stores to try and address the rise in thefts.

A self-checkout area with people using the machines.

Source: pin add/Wikimedia Commons

The legislation has only been proposed and has yet to become law. However, if it does become law, stores will have to have at least one employee manning two self-checkout machines, and customers will only be able to use them if they have less than 15 items in their cart.


Poor Communities Are More Likely to Experience Shoplifting

One concern of lawmakers that is part of why this self-checkout restriction law has been put in place is that poor communities are more likely to experience shoplifting.

Self-checkout machines with people using them.

Source: Wolfmann/Wikimedia Commons

This leads to a more unsafe environment for staff and customers, which this law will aim to address.