Massive U-turn as Dollar General ditches self-checkouts in 12,000 stores – but not because they care about customer service

Dollar General has stopped the use of self-checkouts in 12,000 of its stores – leaving them in only a handful of shops.

It is by far the biggest U-turn by a major retailer on the controversial technology, and details are outlined in an internal staff manual uncovered by DailyMail.com.

The value store spent millions of dollars installing the self-checkouts, but since then has seen thefts soar. Bosses say shoplifting linked to the kiosks was the main reason profits fell earlier this year.

Rather than strippng out self-checkouts, stores will now have them cordoned off – and customers directed to use the remaining traditional manned lanes.

But if lines for those grow, Dollar General workers will temporarily open what used to be the self-checkouts – and scan items for shoppers. 

Customers are not be allowed to use them on their own, according to the staff manual. 

Dollar General spent tens of millions rolling out self-checkouts – now they have shut most of them due to theft. Staff will operate like  normal register only when lines get big

Dollar General has a staff manual explaining that self-checkouts are now shut – and customers will not be allowed to use them on their own. But staff can open them up as a ‘line buster register’ to help customers when stores are busy

Used in this way – with staff operating them – the old self-checkouts are known as ‘line buster registers’, the staff manual explains. 

It says: ‘LineBuster register assistance is needed when three or more customers are in line at a primary register.’

It goes on to explain that staff should operate it as if it were a normal register, engaging with the customer throughout the transaction and thanking them when they leave.

The registers can take all forms of payment apart from checks. Cash is fed into a slot and change returned.

There is a ‘customer frequently asked questions’ section in the document for staff to help deal with shoppers.

When asked: ‘Why are you insisting on helping, don’t you trust me?’ staff must say: ‘Of course we trust you. We just want to assist you and improve our service.’

Dollar General began aggresively rolling out self-checkout kiosks in 2022. 

By early the next year they were in just over two-thirds of its 20,000 stores. It even piloted shops with just the stations.

CEO Todd Vasos said that the hurried U-turn in recent months was driven by wanting to cut rising ‘shrink’, the retail term for theft.

He said that they have been removed from 12,000 stores – meaning only a few hundred still have them.

Vasos was updating investors and analysts on May 30, after the retailer released its earnings for the three months to May 3. Sales rose 6 percent to $9.9 billion, but profit fell 26 percent. 

He said self-checkouts will only be available ‘in a limited number of stores, most of which are higher volume and low shrink locations.’

Self-checkouts were introduced as a way to cut lines, boost efficiency in store and reduce staffing numbers – and boomed in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the backlash against self-checkouts is growing – with shoppers and store staff alike turning on them.

Customers feel like they are being made to work for free, while store bosses blame them for a jump in theft.

Walmart – America’s biggest retailer – has removed them completely from at least six stores this year. 

Target has done so for least one shop – even after committing to them in all its 2,000 stores as recently as March. At the time it rolled out a ten-item limit to make the lines move faster..

The Q&A section of the Dollar General staff manual tells staff what to saywhen customers ask: ‘Don’t you trust me?’ Staff must say: ‘Of course we trust you. We just want to assist you and improve our service.’

Todd Vasos, CEO of Dollar General, said theft was a key reason to shut all the retailer’s self-checkouts. But he added customers like the added interaction with staff

Kroger also added traditional checkout lanes at a store in Texas where it had previously been offering only self-checkout machines, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Meanwhile, Costco started placing additional staff in self-checkout areas to supervise shoppers and ensure all items wee being scanned correctly.

Vasos was asked what Dollar General had seen in the 12,000 stores.

‘There is no doubt we’re getting positive customer feedback across the board on the 9,000 and quite frankly, some of the 3,000 that we did in May,’ he said..

‘Consumers …like the interaction at the front of the store.’

Dollar General were approached for comment on Tuesday but did not respond.

Leave a Comment