Why Trader Joe's Will Never Have Self-Checkout

The convenience of self-checkout at grocery stores is becoming increasingly sought-after. Not only does it allow a handful of people to check themselves out simultaneously, but it also reduces the need for cashiers to be on the clock. This is seemingly better for businesses and their customers. Self-checkout machines are now the primary way to pay for groceries, totaling 55% of all transactions, according to a 2022 Video Mining study. 

As customers gain familiarity with these devices, they appear to improve the overall shopping experience. Plus, stores are incentivized to invest in this technology to mitigate the increasing price of labor. Knowing this, it may seem odd that Trader Joe's doesn't have any self-checkout options. The truth is, this is an intentional move and the grocery chain has no plans on ever replacing its skilled workers with machines. 

In episode 24 of Trader Joe's podcast with the company's vice president of marketing, Matt Sloan, and marketing director, Tara Miller, they discussed their resistance to the changing landscape of contactless shopping, with Miller noting, "People remain our most valued resource." Similarly, in episode 65 of the podcast with Trader Joe's CEO, Bryan Palbaum, and the President and Vice CEO, Jon Basalone, they shut down any rumors that self-checkout was coming soon, with Basalone saying, "We believe in people and we're not trying to get rid of our crew members for efficiency['s] sake." 

Some shoppers still prefer human interaction

For shoppers who need to get in and out of the grocery store in the middle of a busy day, self-checkout may be a great option. However, it undoubtedly removes human interaction and any interpersonal communication. While this may not be an issue for those who are content with no contact, others truly look forward to those lighthearted conversations that occur while shopping for the unique and popular items that Trader Joe's carries.

Trader Joe's recognizes that workers who are attentive, knowledgable, and personable will only enhance the shopper's experience. Knowing that you will encounter a friendly worker right around the corner if you ever have a question while shopping can be the reason someone chooses Trader Joe's over a different store. Trader Joe's is known for its helpful staff, and that doesn't end at the checkout stand. Trader Joe's cashiers not only leave you with a lasting impression of the store, but their kindness often brightens shoppers' days.

It seems like the higher-ups at Trader Joe's are well aware of this unique approach to traditional employees, because they pride themselves on hiring and training the best. Even during pandemic heights, when limited numbers of shoppers were allowed in the stores, workers handed out free water to those in line and systematically sanitized every cart. The supportive and consistent crew has become something shoppers expect from Trader Joe's, and making any changes toward self-checkout options would simply contradict its successful business model.