The psychological effects of self-checkouts

AL Robinson/Shutterstock
AL Robinson/Shutterstock

Some people are regulars at the self-checkouts of grocery stores. Others avoid them like the plague.

What makes the difference? If you guessed age, you are on the right track.

Older folks are less likely to use self-checkout. Why?

One reason is they have a long-developed expectation of having a clerk check out their groceries.

Expectations are powerful.

Also, doing self-checkout the first few times is an electronic challenge.

Older folks tend to have less confidence that they can navigate that electronic highway.

Young people have spent many hours playing video games.

To them, self-checkout seems relatively simple.

A final reason: because older individuals have a bias against self-checkouts, when they try them they get easily frustrated.

Remove a filled bag before you are done, the machine questions your integrity.

Need to get human action to buy razor blades? Waiting feeds into a bias against the machine.

Older folks tend to be late adopters of new technology.

I remember my sainted mother rejecting use of a microwave oven.

Once she later tried it though, she used it every day for every possible purpose.

I just read that Aldi is now experimenting with self-checkout.

The future has few or no checkout clerks in busy stores.

Grocery checkout will go the way of petrol pumping by a service attendant.

When's the last time someone pumped your petrol for you?

Human employees are being replaced by cheaper electronic equipment and new processes.

Clerks in retail stores that sell products other than groceries also are fading away.

COVID limitations led many people to buy online. That trend will continue.

The humans involved on the business side of retail will work in warehouses and in delivering goods to homes.

One of my pals had coffee delivered by drone.

We have not yet reached the Star Trek point of replicators making almost anything we want, but we are moving in that direction with 3D printing of airplane parts, jewelry, eyeglasses, and so on.

What are the psychological effects of eliminating human interactions in retail?

We may have more individuals who feel lonely and disconnected.

We may have fewer individuals working in retail checkout jobs.

These individuals might end up doing more solitary work - leaving them feeling disconnected.

Social interactions can be created outside purchasing items and outside work.

But producing that interaction takes a bit of effort.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story The psychological effects of self-checkouts | Mind Matters first appeared on The Canberra Times.