California Bill Would Impose Restrictions on Self-Checkout

A bill that could have forced grocery stores to rethink self-checkout lanes has now been put on hold after a Senate vote Monday. The proposed California law aimed to regulate how stores should implement self-checkout to reduce theft and boost employment.

A new California bill would prohibit grocery or retail drug stores from offering self-checkout options to customers unless they comply with certain conditions, such as capping purchases at 10 items.

Under Senate Bill 1446, retailers will be allowed to assign one employee to monitor two self-service checkout stations. The employee must be relieved from all other duties.

The bill, proposed by Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Dist. 28), requires that establishments have at least one manual checkout station manned by one employee who is available to assist customers.

Purchases at self-service checkouts would be limited to 10 items or fewer, with signage indicating this. Customers would be prohibited from using self-service checkouts to buy certain items such as alcohol and tobacco products.

The legislation also requires that stores offering self-service checkout include this technology in their analysis of potential workplace hazards for injury and illness.

“We must protect jobs and ensure worker safety,” Ms. Smallwood-Cuevas said, according to ABC7 News.

The bill will require stores intending to install the technology to conduct a study that includes the salaries, benefits, jobs, and work hours that would be eliminated.

Stores will need to notify and solicit input from employees at least 60 days before drafting the study, and they must provide the study to employees or their collective bargaining representatives at least 60 days before implementing the technology.

The Western States Council, which represents unionized workers in California, Arizona, and Nevada, has backed the bill, saying it will “increase staffing and oversight at self-checkout machines” and help prevent theft and promote safety.

“Ensuring stores are adequately staffed will protect workers, prevent retail theft, and improve the customer experience. That’s why #SB1446 is a win for our communities,” the council stated on X.

Grocers Oppose

However, the California Grocers Association (CGA) has argued that the proposed law would “severely disrupt” the grocery checkout experience and called on people to oppose it.

“Grocery shoppers enjoy self-checkout for its convenience, yet SB 1446 by Sen. Smallwood-Cuevas proposes to make self-checkout anything but,” the CGA stated on its website.

The bill would “significantly impact the future of technological innovation in California retail by requiring a worker and consumer assessment of any technology deployed in stores that could impact jobs,” it stated.

“Let’s keep decisions about the grocery store checkout experience, technology upgrades, and employee operations in the hands of those who know their stores best: grocers, not politicians,” the CGA added.

Many retailers, including grocery stores, added self-checkout options during the COVID-19 pandemic to lessen personal touch. They kept them in place because it helped cut back on the cost of hiring cashiers.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail theft reached $121.6 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $150 billion by 2026.

This could be one reason that stores owned by Walmart, Target, and Dollar General have announced that their reliance on self-checkout will shift dramatically for the rest of 2024.

“We’ve found that 25 percent of their losses are happening through self-checkouts, and they’re now looking at how to effectively address those issues,” Adrian Beck, an emeritus professor with the School of Criminology at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, told The Epoch Times last month.

“Around 53 percent of the loss was malicious and purposeful, but there was also a huge chunk of non-malicious theft where people just make mistakes,” he added.

Mr. Beck’s report, titled “Global Study on Self-Checkout,” said that theft was identified as a problem with the technology as early as 2022.

Mark Gilman contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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