Costco adding self-checkouts again

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Super S
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Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by Super S »

I was at the Costco in Warrenton, Oregon today and noticed that they added self-checkouts sometime in the last few months. This is a smaller Costco store, and this has reduced the number of regular checkouts to 5 or 6. This store has been a little less busy than locations around Vancouver/Portland which is one reason I go to this one. I also noticed that they have "staggered" the remaining checkstands. If this store has mostly small transactions this could work, but would hate to be here on a busy day like the day before Thanksgiving when people have a lot of big transactions.

Costco hasn't been consistent with adding these...are they adding them elsewhere?

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by Alpha8472 »

Sam's Club has had self checkout for some time. The self checkout machines have a hand held scanner and do not require you to put items in a bagging area. It works unless you have alcohol. An attendant must ring that up.
Last edited by Alpha8472 on October 16th, 2020, 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by klkla »

Wow. I have never seen a Costco with only 5 or 6 checkstands, No such thing in L.A.

I was at a Costco two weeks ago and noticed the self-checkouts there, too. If they pulled out any registers I couldn't tell. It still had at least 20 checkstands.

I hadn't been to a Costco in a while and thanks to Covid they no longer had what I hated most: Sampling stations. It was always a pain in the xxx to get around all the people shoving there way in for a free meatball or whatever other crap they were giving away.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by babs »

They added the last week to the wilsonville, Oregon store, which is a lower volume store. Originally they only had the. At the top 150 stores but my guess now is that they have deemed the program a success and are expanding it.

Also keep in mind that the very last register was always reserved for supervisors for adjustments. They've now added a freestanding register for supervisors to use that frees up another checkstand.

On a side note, they do have the best self checkout system I have seen. Simple to use, attendents roaming with handheld scanners to help out. They got it to work well.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by storewanderer »

babs wrote: October 16th, 2020, 8:43 pm They added the last week to the wilsonville, Oregon store, which is a lower volume store. Originally they only had the. At the top 150 stores but my guess now is that they have deemed the program a success and are expanding it.

Also keep in mind that the very last register was always reserved for supervisors for adjustments. They've now added a freestanding register for supervisors to use that frees up another checkstand.

On a side note, they do have the best self checkout system I have seen. Simple to use, attendents roaming with handheld scanners to help out. They got it to work well.
When Costco initially piloted self checkout a number of years ago they said it worked okay at low-medium volume warehouses but they had a lot of problems running it at higher volume stores. The end result was they yanked it out entirely at that time and deemed it not right for their format.

I don't know how a Costco can only have 5-6 regular checkstands... is this a regular Costco or a Business Center? How many self checkouts do they have?

Self checkout is very popular at Sam's Club. Quick and easy to use (they have a different software). There is no weight scale, just a handheld scanner, small counter, screen, and pinpad.

It will be tough for a self checkout to be more efficient than Costco's regular front end cashiers and helpers though... they are the most efficient I've seen.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by mbz321 »

I work at Costco and my location added self-checkouts about a month ago (I had to work several overnights helping to set them up and we received all new regular checkstands and registers as well). We took out two regular checkstands to add in the 6 self checkouts leaving us with 10 regular lanes (which are almost never all open anyway..typically 5 or so are open during slower periods, with a few more open lanes on the weekends).

They are trying to roll them out to as many locations as possible where it makes sense to do so (my location did not have them at all previously). I believe the 'old' ones were a conveyor type model that caused a lot of issues. These just have a large scale designed for smaller orders. These ones have their flaws as well and some things just don't make sense.

There is no scan gun for the member to use. The assistant has a scan gun to go around and hit big items which is a PITA (The gun is synced by hitting a bar code on the top of each SCO, but it takes several seconds for it to sync). Each unit does have a scanner but it is tucked behind the monitor which lifts forward revealing the inside of the machine.

Bagels/muffins/danish and other non barcoded items have to be hand-keyed in by the assistant just as the cashier has to do on a regular lane, which is a PITA. This ensures the member gets two packs of each (and it is amazing how many don't read the signs and only bring up one package--do people really think 4 single danishes for $10, or a half dozen bagels for $7 is a good deal?).

We do not have an item limit restriction so people try coming through with loaded up carts, which just doesn't work as the scales are not large enough for that.

Members are missing items left and right, either intentionally/unintentionally. The SCO receipts print on blue paper so they face more scrutiny by the receipt checkers. Most of the 'door audits' as they call them seem to be from the SCO's vs. the actual cashiered lanes.

The machines are credit card or debit only. No cash. Executive or credit card rewards certificates can't be redeemed on them. They also don't take EBT cards, which the use of seems to be growing huge in my store. Not sure why they can't be programmed to take them. I had to watch the area yesterday for some time and almost 3 transactions in a row I had to suspend and re-ring on a secondary register we have next to the SCO's.

I've heard, although not sure if it is accurate, that corporate wants at least 40% of all orders to go through the SCO's. I've read some locations seem to be 'cheating' in a way by having an employee at each 'self' checkout, making it really just an express lane. My building wants to do this when we get closer to the holidays when we get slammed. Typically we just have one employee watching all six lanes, or two employees during busier times.

Hopefully this sheds some insight into things.

And as a side note, we just had new permanent 'glass' (actual tempered glass, not plexiglass) shields installed on the manned lanes the other day. Previously, we were using a hodge podge of plexiglass that was mainly repurposed from the meat/seafood department 'roadshow' bins. Of course it didn't come in until weeks after the new checkouts were installed leaving a bunch of unnecessary tape/drill holes from when the old plexiglass was removed.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by babs »

storewanderer wrote: October 17th, 2020, 1:13 am
babs wrote: October 16th, 2020, 8:43 pm They added the last week to the wilsonville, Oregon store, which is a lower volume store. Originally they only had the. At the top 150 stores but my guess now is that they have deemed the program a success and are expanding it.

Also keep in mind that the very last register was always reserved for supervisors for adjustments. They've now added a freestanding register for supervisors to use that frees up another checkstand.

On a side note, they do have the best self checkout system I have seen. Simple to use, attendents roaming with handheld scanners to help out. They got it to work well.
When Costco initially piloted self checkout a number of years ago they said it worked okay at low-medium volume warehouses but they had a lot of problems running it at higher volume stores. The end result was they yanked it out entirely at that time and deemed it not right for their format.

I don't know how a Costco can only have 5-6 regular checkstands... is this a regular Costco or a Business Center? How many self checkouts do they have?

Self checkout is very popular at Sam's Club. Quick and easy to use (they have a different software). There is no weight scale, just a handheld scanner, small counter, screen, and pinpad.

It will be tough for a self checkout to be more efficient than Costco's regular front end cashiers and helpers though... they are the most efficient I've seen.
The newer Costco self checkout is more like what you see in a grocery store. It's nothing like what they had before with the belts. The Tigard store has 9 stations with a very large scale area to hold the items. The attendants are actively walking around with handheld scanners to scan large items so they don't need to go on the scale. Unlike some grocery stores where the clerks could care less. It appears to be designed to take smaller purchases away from staffed checkstand. I think it's well thought out. The stores I have been to don't appear to have lost more than 1-2 checkstands so I don't know if the store with 5-6 checkstands is the long term plan. Generally Costco seems to know what they are doing.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by storewanderer »

mbz321 wrote: October 17th, 2020, 8:43 am
They are trying to roll them out to as many locations as possible where it makes sense to do so (my location did not have them at all previously). I believe the 'old' ones were a conveyor type model that caused a lot of issues. These just have a large scale designed for smaller orders. These ones have their flaws as well and some things just don't make sense.

There is no scan gun for the member to use. The assistant has a scan gun to go around and hit big items which is a PITA (The gun is synced by hitting a bar code on the top of each SCO, but it takes several seconds for it to sync). Each unit does have a scanner but it is tucked behind the monitor which lifts forward revealing the inside of the machine.

Bagels/muffins/danish and other non barcoded items have to be hand-keyed in by the assistant just as the cashier has to do on a regular lane, which is a PITA. This ensures the member gets two packs of each (and it is amazing how many don't read the signs and only bring up one package--do people really think 4 single danishes for $10, or a half dozen bagels for $7 is a good deal?).

I've heard, although not sure if it is accurate, that corporate wants at least 40% of all orders to go through the SCO's. I've read some locations seem to be 'cheating' in a way by having an employee at each 'self' checkout, making it really just an express lane. My building wants to do this when we get closer to the holidays when we get slammed. Typically we just have one employee watching all six lanes, or two employees during busier times.

Hopefully this sheds some insight into things.
If customers are receptive to this and want to use self checkout, it should be a win. I do see customers using the "scan and go" at Sam's Club where they scan on their app and bypass checkout completely which is interesting.

Not having a scan gun on the self checkout for the customer to use is pretty stupid. The Sam's Club self checkout has ONLY a scan gun (no regular scanner) and no scale at all. Given the format this makes sense. The receipt checker at the door heavily audits the self checkout transactions.

The solution for the non-barcoded items is pretty easy: bar code them as a 2 for unit price with unit 1 at the full price and unit 2 at .00. If the customer only shows up with 1 unit and is willing to pay those prices, I guess that may screw up the inventory a little bit but the store still gets the money it would have gotten for 2 packages. Sam's Club used to have all of its Lay's Chips and some breads as "2 pack" prices where the customer had to physically take two loose packages off the shelf too (they had produce type bags there where you put the 2 bags) and they eventually gave that up and just went to single unit pricing on all of those items.

Corporate setting goals like 40% of all transactions through self checkout and stores getting creative about how to meet that goal is not good- eye off the ball which is running an efficient warehouse. And it is not efficient to have store staff running customers through self checkouts when there are regular checkouts available to be used.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by mbz321 »

storewanderer wrote: October 17th, 2020, 11:25 am
The solution for the non-barcoded items is pretty easy: bar code them as a 2 for unit price with unit 1 at the full price and unit 2 at .00. If the customer only shows up with 1 unit and is willing to pay those prices, I guess that may screw up the inventory a little bit but the store still gets the money it would have gotten for 2 packages. Sam's Club used to have all of its Lay's Chips and some breads as "2 pack" prices where the customer had to physically take two loose packages off the shelf too (they had produce type bags there where you put the 2 bags) and they eventually gave that up and just went to single unit pricing on all of those items.
That would be a great solution, although Costco despite it's success, tends to do a lot of things ass-backwards (I could write a Novel if I had the time). I would say the archaic systems might not even be able to handle such a change, but once in a while we have a sale BOGO item (like bags of chips or popcorn or such) and the system just takes off the second one as a coupon when two are scanned.

Related to this, we have a lot of items with limits right now to ensure enough supply (along with the paper and cleaning products, weird stuff is still limited like frozen Taquitos and ice cream bars....who knew they were 'essential'?). The system will block more than 1 per transaction, but all they have to do is go out, come back in, ring up multiple transactions at self checkout when the attendant isn't paying attention, etc. It should be a simple fix to actually restrict items to once per day/week/month/whatever, yet it hasn't been done.

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Re: Costco adding self-checkouts again

Post by storewanderer »

mbz321 wrote: October 17th, 2020, 5:11 pm
That would be a great solution, although Costco despite it's success, tends to do a lot of things ass-backwards (I could write a Novel if I had the time). I would say the archaic systems might not even be able to handle such a change, but once in a while we have a sale BOGO item (like bags of chips or popcorn or such) and the system just takes off the second one as a coupon when two are scanned.

Related to this, we have a lot of items with limits right now to ensure enough supply (along with the paper and cleaning products, weird stuff is still limited like frozen Taquitos and ice cream bars....who knew they were 'essential'?). The system will block more than 1 per transaction, but all they have to do is go out, come back in, ring up multiple transactions at self checkout when the attendant isn't paying attention, etc. It should be a simple fix to actually restrict items to once per day/week/month/whatever, yet it hasn't been done.
There should be a way to do a quantity limit per membership card (not per transaction) on the specific UPC Code or a family of UPC Codes but maybe they just don't want to go that far.

I never tried to exceed the quantity limit on any of the high demand merchandise during this pandemic to see if the registers anywhere were actually enforcing limits. I do know at WinCo they were visually enforcing limits as I observed an argument there.

I have heard of some rather archaic processes at Costco. I heard, a number of years ago now, the reason their receipts still printed as each item scanned (vs. at the end of the transaction like most retailers now) was because their audit/loss control group would sometimes zoom in with the camera and look at the tape on the printer. It seems like they should be able to do all of that looking via the central controller via a computer at this point- that sort of thing of looking at the tape as it prints is a process from like the 80's.

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