Watch CBS News

Target is pulling back on self-checkout, limiting service to people with 10 items or fewer

Target launches new self-checkout policy limiting purchases to 10 items
Target launches new self-checkout policy limiting purchases to 10 items 00:34

Target is pulling back on what's become a ubiquitous and often speedier way for customers to pay for their purchases in stores. 

The retailer on Thursday said it's making changes to a key part of the buying process — the checkout line. Customers who choose self-checkout will be limited to 10 items, Target said. Otherwise, they'll have to purchase their items via a human cashier before leaving stores. 

Target's "Express Self-Checkout" lanes will hit stores on Sunday at most of its 2,000 locations. The change comes after the company piloted the program at 200 stores last fall, with the company noting that self-checkout was twice as fast at those locations.

Target and other retailers invested heavily in self-checkout options during the pandemic to limit human interaction and mitigate the spread of the virus as well as to save on labor costs. However, some studies have found that self-checkout enables more customer theft. 

For instance, a 2023 LendingTree survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers found that 15% of self-checkout users purposely stole goods. Forty-four percent of self-checkout thieves also said they would do it again. 

Some customers are also souring on self-checkout, with a recent study from Drexel University finding that shoppers feel more loyal to a store and are more likely to revisit if they check out with a human cashier. And self-checkout could pose a financial risk to customers, with reports of credit card skimmers installed in retailers' self-checkout lanes, such as at several supermarkets in Massachusetts.

Why is Target limiting self-checkout to 10 items?

Target said its impetus for limiting the number of items at self-checkout counters was to improve the customer experience by speeding up the process. 

The retailer will also open more employee-staffed checkout lanes for customers with more than 10 items to help speed up the checkout process overall. Store managers will designate self-checkout lanes' hours based on foot traffic patterns, Target added. 

Other retailers also appear to have cooled on self-checkout after doubling down on it during the pandemic. 

While Walmart hasn't made any public announcements, some shoppers report on social media that the self-checkout lines at their local stores have been closed. 

A Walmart spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch that it is normal for some of its stores to "adjust the use of staffed checkouts and self-checkouts" depending on customer numbers and staffing levels. "This process isn't new," the spokesperson said.

During these times of limited access, some stores are designating select self-checkout stations for Walmart+ customers using our Scan and Go service and Spark drivers for quicker access and delivery services. This decision is intended to better manage checkout availability. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.