COVID Is Bringing More Self-Checkout at Stores

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost everything about the way we work, live, and socialize. It may not fully be able to disrupt how we shop, however. As states and cities begin to open again, however tentatively, Americans are eager to resume something resembling a new normal. That includes hitting our favorite big box stores.

Those stores are preparing as best they can too. Walmart, for instance, has announced that it's increasing the number of self-checkout stations in its Fayetteville, Arkansas, location — which is about 25 miles from the corporate headquarters in Bentonville. This is just a test for now, but the goal is to minimize worker-customer contact and thus try to help contain potential COVID-19 contact points. Staffed checkout stations will still be available for those who want their hauls scanned and bagged by a person.

The stated goal is noble, but the actual fallout might have some watchdogs concerned. Automating checkout lines dramatically cuts down on paid positions, at a time when we're dealing with a new recession and the pandemic has financially undercut 1 in 3 Americans. Of course, how any stores, including big box stores, deal with public safety and health measures varies widely too, raising questions about which retailers should be open at all.

In the bigger picture, 1 in 3 small businesses that closed due to the pandemic may not survive to reopen, and these economic bombs are falling largely on minority-owned businesses. Now may be the time to seek out opportunities to support local communities, both in person and online.