LOS ANGELES – For a time, they seemed to be the future of shopping.

Grocery stores, home improvement stores and retail chains were making room for those blinking greenways of wide, modern shopping conveniences (or so they said): the self-checkout checkouts where you become cashier and bagger. .

If you’ve ever visited Target on a Sunday night and seen the snaking line of self-checkout customers entering the store, you know it.

But they may be seen less at major retailers today, and California’s retail crime wave can be blamed.

Self-checkout closed

Self-checkout closed

On social media, a user recently posted this photo of the Walmart in West Hills, with the self-checkout lanes cordoned off. The post said all Wal-Marts have removed self-checkout systems due to theft.

We reached out to Wal-Mart to find out if self-checkout lanes were really a thing of the past. Are they eliminating them all in California? Which stores have had them removed (or simply closed, temporarily or not)?

Video captures mob of thieves looting Nordstrom Rack in Riverside

A Wal-Mart spokesperson told us they needed to investigate the issue.

They later responded by saying, “We are always looking for ways to innovate and improve our stores. “We have nothing to announce related to the removal of the self-checkout system at this time.”

When pressed for more details, the retailer offered none.

“I refer you to the previous statement. That is the only comment we have.”

It’s the not-so-secret secret: retail chains are eliminating these lanes and many don’t want to talk about it.

In December, SFGATE.com reported that Target quietly eliminated self-checkout systems in San Francisco, calling it “a trend in ‘defensive retail’ that could soon spread across the city.”

Other reports say that Target, when it allows self-checkout, only does so for customers with ten items or less. No more big carts full of items.

KTLA also reached out to Target. No response.

Other chains, including Costco, have been grappling with the issue, saying that “shrinkage,” or the measure by which chains track retail theft, has increased in part because of the rollout of self-checkout.

KTLA also reached out to Costco. No response.

California retail theft ring scammed stores and sold products on Amazon, officials say

Two years ago, when KTLA 5 News consumer expert David Lazarus reported on Kohl’s, H&M, Bed Bath & Beyond and Zara testing self-checkout systems, he noted: “It’s obvious why (self-checkout) technology is attractive for the companies. One of your main expenses is labor. Therefore, any form of automation that reduces human interaction with customers is money in the company’s pocket.”

Now, California’s crime trends may be proving too costly.

LAPD data from 2023 shows that retail theft increased by 16% in the city of Los Angeles. Many of those crimes involve “flash mob-style” attacks on retailers.

Reported shoplifting incidents increased in the Bay Area, and shoplifting is trending upward in Los Angeles and other urban areas.

It is definitely a problem in big cities. The Public Policy Institute of California found that shoplifting levels did not increase in California’s smaller counties and, in fact, decreased in some areas.

For those sticking with self-checkout, The Associated Press says Kroger is one of the companies now using artificial intelligence that can detect when a shopper doesn’t scan an item. If the customer doesn’t resolve the issue, they receive the dreaded red light at self-checkout and a call to customer service.

You love them or you hate them. Maybe that’s where self-checkout evolves next.

Lazarus ended his 2022 column by saying, “The thing is, many consumers don’t like self-checkout.”

It’s true. Many don’t like it.

And now, based on crime trends, many stores may be reconsidering.

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By Sam