The Importance of Cashiers in Supermarkets: Why Automation Could Hurt More Than Help
Cashiers are often overlooked in the retail industry, yet they play a crucial role in providing a positive shopping experience for customers. They are the final point of contact for shoppers, and their performance can have a lasting impact. Despite being considered entry-level employees, cashiers are responsible for collecting the majority of a grocery store’s payments, making them essential to the industry.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards automating cashier roles, introducing self-checkout kiosks and even cashier-less technologies. However, this shift has caused concern among small business owners, who fear the impact of upcoming federal rate hikes. So why do stores continue to push for automation despite the essential role of cashiers in retail?
In this beginner’s guide, we will explore the importance of cashiers in supermarkets and the potential implications of automation on the industry.
The Role of Cashiers in Retail
Cashiers are the front-line employees of a supermarket, responsible for ringing up customers and counting every payment. A precise till is crucial, as even small errors can result in job loss. Cashiers are also responsible for establishing a connection with customers, initiating small chats and helping them find products. They must herd hundreds of people every hour, always being mindful of providing a positive shopping experience.
When issues arise, cashiers must be diplomatic and find solutions to satisfy customers. For example, when an item doesn’t scan correctly, calling a supervisor to resolve the issue. Cashiers must also be flexible, transitioning from scanning products and counting change to bagging items as needed.
The Shift Towards Automation
Despite the importance of their role, there has been a growing trend towards automating cashier positions. Businesses have introduced self-checkout kiosks, and some are even experimenting with cashier-less technologies. While these innovations promise faster checkout times and reduced customer exposure to COVID-19, they also pose significant challenges to the retail industry.
Automation not only eliminates cashier positions but also requires rigorous retail discipline, de-skilling, and store supervision. Changing the merchandising to fit seasonal demands or consumer preferences is not an option for a clerk. In essence, automation threatens an entire service industry.
The Impact on Cashiers and the Retail Industry
As automation increases, the role of cashiers in retail is under threat. The supermarket sector alone employs around 865,000 cashiers, making up 30% of total employment. The majority of cashiers are underpaid, with wages often barely above the federal minimum wage. Female, Black, Latino/Hispanic, and immigrant workers are also disproportionately represented in this profession.
Ultimately, the implementation of automation will remove hundreds of thousands of jobs, affecting mostly low-paid workers who may already be struggling financially. Automation may streamline retail labor and reduce costs, but is it truly worth it if another human-being’s livelihood is at stake?
Looking to the Future
As cashiers and other retail employees continue to experience challenges due to the epidemic, many have left the sector. Low pay, inadequate benefits, and unpredictable schedules have contributed to the ‘Great Resignation.’ Stores have attempted to attract and retain employees by offering pay and benefits increases. However, these increases are often insufficient, indicating that the retail industry is struggling to provide living wages.
While automation may increase efficiency, its benefits are often achieved at the cost of human employment and livelihoods. As consumers, it is essential to recognize the role that cashiers play in our shopping experiences and the potential ramifications of automation on the retail industry.
Cashiers are essential to the retail industry, making up a significant portion of supermarket employees. While the shift towards automation may provide some benefits, it also poses significant challenges for the industry, especially for those already struggling to make ends meet. As consumers, it is important to recognize the vital role that cashiers play in our shopping experiences and advocate for their livelihoods.