California Bill Would Require Stores to Have 1 Employee Monitoring 2 Self-Checkouts

California Bill Would Require Stores to Have 1 Employee Monitoring 2 Self-Checkouts

A self-checkout station at a Safeway grocery store in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on May 22, 2024. (Keegan Billings/The Epoch Times)

Keegan Billings
Keegan Billings

5/24/2024

Updated: 5/29/2024

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A proposed California bill would impose new restrictions on self-checkout for grocery stores and drugstores.
The bill, SB-1446 would require that for every two self-checkout stations, there must be one employee monitoring them, and employees must be relieved of all other duties while monitoring the stations.
Self-checkouts would be limited to only 15 items, and items like alcohol and tobacco products along with items locked away in cabinets due to frequent theft that require an employee to go get them will not be allowed in self-checkouts.
Stores would additionally have to include self-checkout in their analysis of potential work hazards.
The bill would also require a store that develops or implements technology that affects the jobs of its employees to complete a study on how such would impact employees before implementing it.
“While it’s crucial to adapt to new technologies, protecting jobs and worker safety must be prioritized in the process,” the bill’s author, Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) said in a press release.
California Labor Federation Chief Operating Officer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher stated in the press release: “The future of work should be shaped by workers and community, not left to corporations that profit from automating jobs. No one wants to shop in stores staffed by machines instead of workers. Replacing grocery workers with automated self-checkout machines has made stores less safe for everyone.”
Ms. Fletcher added that the bill ensures safe staffing and limitations on self-checkout to protect good jobs in the industry, restore safety, and reduce organized theft.
The press release states: “Grocery and retail workers are forced to stock merchandise, operate checkout, and cater to customers, all while trying to monitor the stores for theft. This reduction in staffing has occurred as a result of growing presence of self-checkout, leading to increased workplace violence and retail theft.”
Nate Rose, senior director of communications for the California Grocers Association (CGA), told The Epoch Times in an email, “If passed, SB-1446 would have lasting impacts on the future of self-checkout.”
He said that creating an enjoyable shopping experience for customers and keeping store employees safe are both integral to a grocery store’s mission, and self-checkout’s popularity among customers has proven that it has a place in grocery stores.
He said that punishing grocers for offering self-checkout by adding burdensome restrictions that undermine its convenience for customers and forcing grocers to overstaff the area will likely deter grocers from making the investment in the future.
“Picture a mother shopping with her young kids in tow who needs to quickly pick up some laundry detergent, which is often locked away due to its high theft rates. She wouldn’t be able to use self-checkout,” Mr. Rose said. “SB-1446 creates barriers to convenience and changes all the parts of self-checkout customers love.”
Mr. Rose said that SB-1446 doesn’t stop at attempting to regulate self-checkout, as it would also require an ambiguous assessment of new technologies introduced in grocery stores for impacts on jobs and consumers. California is known to be the world’s technology hub, yet SB-1446 would have a significant chilling effect on retail investments into the customer experience, he thinks. Instead of leading, California retail environments would likely end up feeling stuck in the past in comparison with other states and countries, he said.
Mr. Rose said that a majority of grocery stores do not allow store employees to confront thieves and instead leave matters of security to trained asset protection professionals. This bill puts grocery employees in a position to act as grocery police, hovering uncomfortably over customers who are looking for a quick and convenient checkout experience, making sure customers are not over the item limit and making sure they are not trying to do self-checkout with prohibited items.
He mentioned that SB-1446 was introduced under the guise of combatting retail theft, but it would do nothing to deter theft.
“In fact, it is not supported by retailers, police, or the California District Attorneys Association, all of whom are leading conversations with Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders to address theft. Instead, it would force grocery employees to act as security, stunt technological advancement in California, and eliminate convenience for customers at self-checkout,” he stated.
Grocery store customer Daniela Rinard from Walnut Creek, California, told The Epoch Times that she uses self-checkout about half the time on grocery store runs.
She said it depends on how many people are in each line and how many items she has.
“I get pretty antsy waiting in a fairly long line, so being able to check out my own groceries has been convenient. Half of the time, the self-checkout has zero lines because stores usually have several checkout stations,” she said. “If stores start needing to add one employee per two self-checkout stations, I am imagining that the price of our groceries will go up even more than they have already. That’s because the consumer will probably be paying for those extra employees.”
According to a consumer survey from NCR Voyix, a global provider of digital commerce solutions for the retail, restaurant, and banking industries, 43 percent of consumers expressed a preference for self-checkout, with 53 percent of younger shoppers—ages 18 to 44—preferring it. Of those consumers who prefer self-checkout, speed, shorter lines, and privacy were most important.
Shoppers aged 45 to 60-plus prefer traditional checkout, but the top reason behind their choice is that they often have many items to check out and find that a regular lane is less time-consuming.
In a LendingTree survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers, the company’s chief credit analyst Matt Schulz said, “While self-checkout is convenient, it certainly poses a risk for shoplifting.”
The survey found 15 percent of self-checkout users admitted to stealing, and 44 percent planned to do so again.
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Keegan is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he covers Northern California news.

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