The retail research firm IHL Consulting Group projects that, with advancements in technology, self-checkout could be installed in 95 percent of checkout lanes by the end of the decade. All types of retailers are considering the systems with Kmart Corp. and Kroger Co. recently placing huge orders for them but grocery stores are leading the trend.
Greg Schneider, "Touch and Pay, Here to Stay," The Washington Post, October 12, 2002
Other manufacturers predict a promising future and customer acceptance of a self-checkout lane in a store equipped with a conveyor belt that continually passes items along a combination scanner and security surveillance system. At stores with several self-checkout lanes, a cashier close to the checkstands would help customers and answer questions.
Joel Elson, "Computers seen transforming supermarket of the future," Supermarket News, April 23, 1984
Today's term is a symbol for a related cultural trend: the increasing lack of interaction between customers and retailers. Online shopping has a lot to do with this, of course, but even in the real world bank tellers, gas jockeys, and parking lot attendants are all endangered retail species. And will we soon be adding grocery store cashiers to that list? How grim must the shopping experience become?
The ironic angle on all this is that the more automated and "alone" the checkout process becomes, the more the customer's privacy is sacrificed. Most self-checkout systems accept cash, but how long before that becomes inconvenient for the retailer? Then there are the touch-and-pay (or pay-by-touch) systems where you pay for your purchase by touching a screen that scans your fingerprint. (Oops, sorry, I mean your finger image; apparently fingerprint has gasp! negative connotations.) This is matched to the credit card or bank account data you have on file, and your purchase is automatically charged. I get the willies just thinking about it.