Dollar General pumps the brakes on self-checkout in effort to reduce thefts

America’s shoplifting epidemic has driven retail outlets to claw back customer convenience by eliminating or downscaling the self-checkout stations that have been exploited by thieves.

Dollar General, the discount chain that has a presence in many lower-income areas, will be moving away from self-checkout options in its locations, an acknowledgment that a minority of dishonest people can ruin something for everyone else.

The company will yank the self-checkout stands from 300 stores that have the biggest problems with “shrink” which is the term used to describe shoplifting, CEO Todd Vasos said on a Thursday earnings call with analysts.

“We believe these actions have the potential to have a material and positive impact on shrink,” Vasos said, the term “shrink” came up 37 times on the call, according to CNN.

In 9,000 of the company’s other stores, there will be a move to convert at least some of the self-checkout stands to regular registers manned by employees. The chain will also be placing limits on self-checkout purchases of five or fewer items. The company has over 14,000 stores where the self-checkout option is available.

(Video: YouTube/Action News Now)

The CEO said that the decision came after artificial intelligence was utilized to analyze hundreds of thousands of self-checkout purchases that allowed Dollar General “to determine which stores had the highest levels of stolen merchandise and mis-scanned items,” CNN reported.

“Although adoption rates for self-checkout have been high, we believe there is truly no substitute for an employee presence at the front end of the store to greet customers and provide excellent customer service, including at checkout. Importantly, when choosing our self-checkout solution, we implemented a product that is convertible from self-checkout to associate-assisted checkout,” Vasos said, according to a transcript of the call.

“To that end, we have begun immediately converting some or all self-checkout registers to assisted-checkout options in approximately 9,000 stores. This is intended to drive traffic first to our staffed registers, with assisted-checkout options available as second or third options to reduce lines during high-volume times,” he added.

“We plan to completely remove self-checkout from more than 300 of our highest shrink stores. Collectively, we believe these steps are in line with where the customer wants us to be, which includes increasing personal engagement with them at the store,” Vasos said. “Additionally, we believe these actions have the potential to have a material and positive impact on shrink as we move into the back half of the year and into 2025.”

Kelly Dilts, the company’s CFO told analysts that in the latest quarter, Dollar General reported that “year-over-year shrink headwinds continued to build during the year, increasing more than 100 basis points for both the fourth quarter and full year.”

Other chains also seem to be re-thinking the self-checkout concept in the era of post-George Floyd rampant crime that has been enabled – if not encouraged – by left-wing politicians with their anti-law enforcement policies.

(Video: YouTube/6 ABC Philadelphia)

Retail giant Target is cracking down on “shrink” by implementing a new policy that limits self-checkout purchases to ten or fewer items beginning this week.

Walmart has also been dabbling with changes to its self-checkout lanes.

“From time-to-time, our stores adjust the use of staffed checkouts and self-checkouts. For example, a store might start or end the day with staffed checkouts. As the number of shoppers and associate staffing increases, these stores open self-checkout registers to manage the increased customer flow. This process isn’t new,” said Walmart spokesperson Kelsey Bohl in a statement.

Chris Donaldson

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