Around the world, some public restrooms require a fee. This fee improves maintenance, and most are willing to contribute. Yet, not everyone does, often due to bigger issues at hand.

The system relies on trust, assuming people will pay what's due.

Cheating on such a small scale, like not paying for bathroom use, seems minor. But when it comes to self-checkout, the stakes are higher. Unscanned items can cost retailers significantly.

As a result, stores like Target, Walmart, and Dollar General have adjusted. Target restricts the number of items at self-checkout in some places, while Dollar General has removed self-checkout entirely in others.

Walmart has also tried limiting item numbers and self-checkout hours. Some stores now reserve self-checkout lanes exclusively for Walmart+ members and Spark app delivery drivers.

Advantage Solutions Executive Vice President Andy Keenan weighed in on the long-term viability of self-checkout.

“Self-checkout is not, as one recent article called it, a failed experiment. It’s actually part of the next evolution of the retail customer experience, and evolutions take time,” Keenan said in a web post about the findings of the 2024 Advantage Shopper Outlook survey.

“Since the pandemic, there’s been a revolution on hourly labor. Labor in certain markets that would cost you $16 an hour now costs you $19 or $20 an hour, and it’s a gig economy. The people who once stood at a checkout stand in the front of a store are now driving for Instacart or DoorDash because the hours are more flexible. They want to make their own schedule, and it’s varied work. Today, most retailers can’t offer that.”

Despite the issues, self-checkout remains a practical choice for retailers.

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