Last Updated on May 28, 2023
Well, it’s finally happened. After years of development, self-checkout has finally come in full force to Aldi. If you haven’t seen it yet in your store, it’s probably only a matter of time before you do. What began as a pilot project in the United Kingdom and later in Ohio has now steadily spread across the United States.
With the project now in full swing, we decided to ask our writers what they thought about this development. Below are their individual thoughts. Feel free to add your own in the comments; just be mindful of our Community Guidelines.
Like it or not, self-checkout appears to be the way of the future. As the primary shopper for my household, this is evident to me everywhere from CVS to Five Below and even Target. During recent shopping trips, these stores sometimes didn’t have anyone staffing the regular checkout lanes, instead funneling everyone into the (newly remodeled and enlarged) self-checkout lane. Self-checkout has improved, and I get a lot fewer “unidentified item in the bagging area” notifications these days. As an introvert, I don’t mind taking care of things on my own sometimes, including not having to repeatedly turn down a live cashier’s request to sign up for things such as store credit cards.
As Aldi rolls out self-checkout, I’m watching with curiosity. I view it as potentially having some neutral to positive effects on the Aldi shopping experience.
To start, I’m less concerned about it eliminating jobs. This common argument against self-checkout doesn’t always hold up. First, online shopping is much more of a threat to brick and mortar retail than self-checkout. Also, in most cases, we’re talking about lower-paying jobs that (especially these days) are a dime a dozen and difficult to fill. In addition, stores still need one or two employees to monitor the self-checkout area, which might be similar to how many additional employees they would have at regular checkout lanes if self-checkout didn’t exist. (Because most stores never open all of the regular checkout lanes anyway.) Also, self-checkout can potentially shift employees to other important parts of the store such as stocking shelves, or I often see Aldi employees pushing carts around and filling online orders for curbside pickup.
In terms of positives for customers, I hope self-checkout reduces complaints about cashiers “throwing” or “tossing” delicate items into shopping carts during checkout. This is something I’ve rarely experienced but some people seem to love to grumble about. Self-checkout allows shoppers to pack their eggs and bread just how they want.
I particularly like the idea of ringing up my own groceries because I can make sure nothing gets double scanned. Because Aldi products have multiple bar codes to increase speed at the checkout, sometimes a single product can accidentally get scanned twice. Most of the time, Aldi cashiers are great at noticing this and immediately voiding the extra charge. However, I always double check my receipt before I leave the store. With self-checkout, I can literally take matters into my own hands.
And for those who say they don’t want to “work for free” for a store, did you know that about 100 years ago, customers didn’t retrieve their items off the shelves at grocery stores? That task was for store clerks. But no one these days complains about walking around the store and selecting their own products. We also don’t complain about pumping our own gasoline.
I’m also aware that self-checkout can resolve something the Aldi checkout experience has always lacked, which is an express lane for customers buying only a few things. As a workaround, there has long been an unspoken practice among many Aldi customers to let someone with just a few items go ahead in the line. It’s not required by any means, but it’s a polite gesture I’ve benefited from, and I pay it forward when I can. However, I’ve witnessed heated arguments on Aldi social media fan pages where some customers feel entitled to jump the line and come online to angrily vent if someone didn’t make the offer. Self-checkout could give people one less thing to rant about.
One legitimate area of concern regarding self-checkout is whether it’s user friendly for shoppers who may not be as comfortable using the technology, including older shoppers. My grandparents, most of whom passed away within the last decade, might have struggled to use self-checkout now that more stores are nudging customers toward it. My grandfather probably would have started randomly pressing every button in sight. In this case, I hope that employees would be attentive and helpful especially with elderly customers.
What remains to be seen is how much I’ll personally use self-checkout at Aldi. In my experiences with self-checkout at other stores, it works best when you’re not buying a full cartload of stuff, but I usually have a pretty full cart when I shop at Aldi.
I get why Aldi is doing it. The store has long been about low costs, efficiency, and speed, and on paper self-checkout ticks all of those boxes. It’s certainly cheaper than having extra employees, it lets more employees flex out to the floor to stock and clean, and helps keep an extra lane open than what might be normally. For shoppers carrying just a few items, it might be a boon.
But at the end of the day, I’m still apprehensive. My experiences with self-checkout aren’t always great — I’ve seen those lines be both slow and technically problematic. It might be meant to increase speed, if the store uses it as an excuse to have fewer cashiers on the floor, but it could end up slowing things down more, particularly if workers are tied down troubleshooting self-checkout problems. The technology does seem to have come a long way in recent years, so hopefully what Aldi is using will run smoothly.
Aldi is a smart company, and if their people think self-checkout can coexist with a speedy checkout, maybe it can. But until I see it work for myself, I’m going to have a hard time being a believer.
I have mixed feelings about Aldi’s self-checkout rollout. Self-checkouts are notorious for eliminating retail worker jobs, enabling shoplifting, and creating “unidentified item in the bagging area” headaches for customers. They also work best for customers only buying a handful of items, which isn’t the typical Aldi shopper.
However, my local Aldi could use the relief that self-checkouts might provide.
Although Aldi is known for fast checkouts, this isn’t true at my local store, which consistently has long, slow-moving lines stretching into the aisles. It would also save me time if I could load my groceries directly into my bags instead of schlepping over to the “bagging area” and wrestling my cart into an unnatural parallel parking position to sort and load my items.
So they may be more trouble than they’re worth, overall, but if they are retrofitted into my local Aldi, I’ll give them a try.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments.