June 8, 2017

The pitfalls of manual self-checkout management

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While self-checkouts are a great convenience for customers, the tasks involved with manual self-checkout management can wreak havoc on back-office operations in your stores. Taking note of the potential issues that can arise will help you increase your self-checkouts’ effectiveness and value — both for your customers and your organization.


Physical counts

At any given time, a single self-checkout unit might hold $5,000. Multiply that by four or six units per store, and that’s a lot of cash to track and count. If stores balance each unit daily, they can spend 20 to 25 minutes counting down and refilling each one. That means your stores’ staff could be spending up to 2.5 hours just balancing self-checkouts, when they could be performing other tasks or assisting customers.


Pickup and loans

If self-checkouts aren’t properly managed, they can often run short or fill up unexpectedly during a busy time of day. As units reach their capacity or run low, store leaders have to stop what they are doing and perform a pickup or loan. Depending on the unit type, this can take up to 15 minutes. During this downtime, the units are unavailable to customers, and exposure risk is increased.



When your employees fill self-checkouts with bills, mistakes like switching denominations are easy to make, but they can have costly consequences. Recently in Florida, 20-dollar bills were mistakenly placed in the fives dispenser by an employee while refilling a self-checkout unit, resulting in a loss of $1,100 for the store when a group of customers realized the opportunity. The more you have to manage self-checkouts, the more your chance for these types of errors increases.


Customer cash back

Offering cash-back services to customers can come at a price for retailers, particularly in self-checkouts, where it can be difficult to tell when they are running low on funds. Retailers often set a limit on cash back requests of $50-$150. Cash recycling self-checkout units, which hold far less cash than cash dispensing units, can be easily wiped out of certain denominations by customer requests, leading to more frequent cash replenishment, and in turn, downtime and exposure.


Idle cash

Often, well-meaning staff unnecessarily overfill self-checkout units, usually to avoid having to add cash to the units during busy times of day. While the intention of limiting customer downtime is a good one, this means that more of your organization’s cash on hand is sitting idle when it could be used for other purposes. And, of course, it takes extra time to load, count and manage all that cash – not to mention the extra risk of having large amounts of cash at the front end.


If you’ve deployed self-checkouts in your stores, these issues might sound a bit familiar. Look for opportunities to improve procedures associated with these devices, like requiring fewer balances each week.


While you’ve likely chosen self-checkouts for your customers’ benefit, manually managing them can keep your staff from other activities that benefit your shoppers, like merchandising and customer service. Ensure you’re making the most of these devices by automating the tasks required to deal with them.