More Jobs Lost to Machines: The Demise of Check-Out Clerks

Thumbnail image for misc Oct 008.JPG

More jobs are being lost to self-service machines as workers struggle to make money in this economy.  Have you noticed lately that there are more self-service machines at the check out line in stores like CVS, Fresh & Easy, and Jewel Foods?  No longer are the store clerks standing behind the counter ringing up your items, rather they are nowhere to be seen meaning less jobs in the service sector.


I walked into my local CVS store a couple of weeks ago and was greeted by four self-service machines instead of store personnel.  The store had been reworked to accommodate these machines in the continuing effort to reduce costs for the company.  People were standing in line trying to figure out how to use these machines as babies’ cried and elderly people looked shell-shocked.


The self-check out system is beginning to appear in more and more stores other than the discounters where it is expected.  At discount stores consumers accept the fact that they have to do a little more work to get great savings on products.  Costco has had success with the no bag concept for years where shoppers accept the fact that they need to find a box or bag to carry out for their products.  Self-service machines at Costco would be just fine since their philosophy is to save money and pass it onto their customers.



But, last I checked CVS prices for goods was the same as before they brought in the self-service check out machines.  The only difference now is that I have to struggle with my items and pack my own bags, something that I am not in favor of doing.  And, instead of encouraging me to buy more at the store I skip items, knowing I’ll have to take time to bag them.


I will adapt to the self-service trend, but what about all of those check-out clerks that will lose their jobs to a machine?  I spoke with my favorite CVS worker in downtown Chicago today and she tells me that the store is already cutting the workers hours.  First the store will cut hours and then as their customers become familiar with the machines, they’ll lay off workers that used to be at the cash register.


Of course they will.  Why keep employees onboard that have nothing to do but watch the customer scan his own items?  Currently, the former check out clerks are doing just that; watching people check out.  It seemed so silly and sad to me to watch these poor people, all three of them, just watching the customer and helping them when they were in trouble with the machine, as their job was being dissolved right before them.


This is another change going forward the stores will be doing in business.  And, the loss of service jobs continues to increase with workers left on the sidelines.  This trend will continue as retailers try to find ways to increase their bottom-line profits at the expense of their employees.


The deterioration of jobs in this economy is unsettling.  Retail stores have already scaled back their staff with this latest recession.  Now they have found a way to cut more expense from their operations. These service jobs are gone forever and these workers will be another causality collecting unemployment benefits.   They will have to learn new skills to find work or end up on welfare.


The U.S. is not creating enough jobs to allow workers to make a living.  And the change is happening quickly and with little notice to employees who are scrambling for a job to put a roof over their head.  It’s happening everywhere even in a casino in CA where there was once a high end buffet that patrons could get crab legs and prime rib for $25.  Just recently, I was told by one of the busboys that the casino was installing self-service machines for check-out and drinks while laying-off most of their servers and busboys.


My advice to check out clerks is to start learning a new trade.  Change is coming and it’s happening fast.  Watch for Starbucks who is always a leader in innovation.  I bet they will be using self check-out in some of their stores.  This is not a fact, but mark my words…its coming!






Leave a comment