I was in line at a big box retail store and was struck by several things that left me pondering their front end operation strategy and the anti-shoplifting program. This store has undergone a remodel of the front end replacing some of the cash registers with additional self-checkout counters. As my wife and I stood in line waiting to go through the self-checkout lanes I could not help but to be amused that I was standing in line in a system that was supposed to speed up the checkout process. Now, I get amused (and annoyed) relatively easily especially when I see how dumb something is. So I note while standing in this line that a lane becomes open. The cashier(s) who are supposed to be directing traffic are having a conversation. Please note that I said cashiers in the plural. That’s right, this model of efficiency, had TWO cashiers working in the self-checkout line. These two were not paying attention to the customers, what they were doing or when they were finishing their transactions. What should have been a faster process was painfully slow. I turned to my wife and suggested how much faster it could have been had the second cashier been on a register checking out patrons rather than wagging the tongue. I think she shushed me at this point as my voice tends to carry especially when it is speaking sarcasms. I also saw some things that made me wonder about how the store’s merchandise protection.
I will tell you that I know this store has electronic article surveillance in use but I do not know if it is a Sensormatic security system or a competitor brand. Regardless I saw a lot of merchandise going through the self-check lanes and I was not seeing any security tags. Now I will acknowledge that this company is one that does use vendor source tagging on some merchandise. It is possible many items had tags I could not see but I also know I was not observing any visible protective devices, wraps, boxes, Sensormatic Safers or the like. I had a large case of water in my shopping cart and as I was trying to figure out how I was going to scan it over the scan bed my wife pointed out that there was a hand held scanner available. I didn’t have to remove the water from the cart. It dawned on me, what kind of anti-shoplifting program allows a customer to hand scan an item and leave it in the shopping cart? I can only guess a program built on trust…hmmm, that is an odd system in my way of Loss Prevention Manager thinking. As busy as the cashiers were talking to each other I wonder how many other things I could have “forgotten” to scan and left in the buggy if I were a shoplifter.
Someone reading this is thinking that the store has a door greeter who would have caught the items and asked for a receipt if the items were visible. It is even possible the Sensormatic security system or anti-theft system in place would alarm and prompt a receipt check. I will agree to an extent. This store was very busy. The greeter was busy straightening shopping carts as my wife and I approached and we were able to walk out with the water without being asked for a receipt. Add to this that not everything is protected with an anti-shoplifting device or tag. I am sure that softlines merchandise in this store does not have clothing security tags on them. That means there is a strong possibility no electronic article surveillance alarm would ever sound to prompt a receipt check by the greeter.
Putting on my Manager hat what I would like to see from stores that are going to more of these self-checkout stations is this; have no more than four self-checkout stations to one cashier. The cashier has to be able to react to errors at a register and monitor for theft and fraud concerns. More than four and it becomes very difficult for one person to manage. Operationally a store still saves on three cashiers not being needed. Have a greeter at the door focused on meeting customers, offering directions and being alert to exposed merchandise and ready to respond to electronic article surveillance alarms. Finally to have an effective anti-shoplifting strategy a store has to protect merchandise with electronic article surveillance towers and tags. My preferred system is by Sensormatic because of their reliability and diversity of products but ultimately protect your merchandise. Making changes to become more efficient is fine but don’t be complacent.Managers will always have to manage and people no matter how good a new process seems to be.
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