Target Rolls Out Big Change to Self Checkout Because of Theft, Other Major Retailers to Follow Soon

Target’s implementation of the “Express Self-Checkout” system last weekend, which limits shoppers to 10 items or fewer at standalone self-checkout kiosks, is a harsh reminder of the pervasive issue of theft in our society.

Despite the company’s claim that the move aims to improve efficiency and customer experience, it is difficult to ignore the underlying motivation behind this decision: curbing the rampant theft that has long plagued retailers across the nation.

The Minneapolis-based retail giant’s announcement comes on the heels of similar moves by Walmart and Dollar General, both of which have also taken steps to limit the use of self-checkout registers in an effort to combat inventory loss, or “shrink.”

Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos openly admitted that the company’s decision to remove self-checkout kiosks from 300 stores was a direct response to identifying locations with the highest rates of product theft.

While Target may not be as forthcoming about the theft-related reasons behind its new policy, the timing and context of the decision suggest that it is, indeed, a response to the same issue.

In a statement to “Good Morning America,” Target acknowledged that the pilot program resulted in a reduction of theft in test stores, but maintained that the initiative “wasn’t directed in targeting theft.” This carefully worded statement seems to sidestep the real problem at hand.

The fact that major retailers like Target feel compelled to limit the convenience of self-checkout due to the actions of a dishonest few is a sad testament to the state of our culture.

It is disheartening to think that the trust between businesses and consumers has eroded to such an extent that companies must resort to restrictive measures to protect their inventory and bottom line.

While Target’s new self-checkout policy may help to mitigate theft in the short term, it is merely a band-aid solution to a much deeper societal wound.

Until thieves are sent to prison en masse or some other harsh punishment for theft, retailers will continue to be forced to implement restrictive measures that ultimately inconvenience and punish the majority of law-abiding citizens.