business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal over the weekend had a story about the continuing problems affecting self-checkout lanes at retail, which are becoming more used even as their issues become more pronounced.

Here's how the Journal frames the piece:

"Shoppers aren’t the only ones frustrated by self-checkout machines. Retailers are too.

Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and other retailers are adding thousands of self-checkout machines to U.S. stores to save money on labor as they spend more to staff new services like online delivery. But self-checkouts come with new, sometimes costly challenges as retailers try to curb theft, cut wait times and keep customers happy.

"Some retailers, including Walmart, have quietly disabled or removed the weight sensors used to deter thieves, because they trigger too many “wait for assistance” messages that annoy shoppers.

"Now retailers hope cameras gathering data on products and shoppers can solve their self-checkout woes. They are replacing scales with video systems that some say are better at catching mis-scanned items and stopping transactions in progress only when it is necessary."

You can read the story here.

KC's View:
  I'm not really surprised by any of this, and certainly not as much as I am by this passage from the Journal story…

Terrance Thomas said he accidentally walked out of a Kroger with a case of bottled water he didn’t scan. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to turn around,’ ” the 30-year-old Houston resident said. “ ‘I’m just going to take it.’ ”

Now he intentionally mis-scans items, he said. “I’m not filling up a basket with T-bone steaks,” Mr. Thomas said. “I’m going to steal some kale or vegetables.” He enters the code for a less-expensive vegetable or smaller quantity, he said. He reasons that self-checkouts are annoying for shoppers and that “this is restorative justice” because of his own views about these companies’ practices.

Who the hell thinks like that?  Who the hell acts like that?  And who the hell admits it to a newspaper and allows himself to be quoted by name?  This simply confirms my general belief that the fabric of society is breaking down, that the things that used to make people feel shame no longer do, and that a culture in which these things occur cannot sustain itself going forward.

Not to be a downer on a Tuesday morning, but there it is.