In an ever-changing world, the constant is change. And whether we like it or not, when new technology comes up, it’s time for big and small companies to adapt or die. This is the case with the giant chain Publix which for the longest time battled against the implementation of self-checkout machines, and a decisive vote twisted its arm.
Publix has started offering self-checkout options since early 2021. Although supermarket has been very slow to adopt this technology. User experience and expenses for the technology are often factors in why some locations may not have self checkout.
I’ll share a little bit about the history of the technology and the reasons why Publix has been so slow to adopt it. Also, some consequences and long-term effects on the company culture and human labor. Keep reading to find out!
Service Above All – The Publix Way
Publix’s goal is to be the premier quality food retailer in the world. But they want that ambition to go hand-in-hand with the customer feeling pleased when shopping at their stores. That’s why their motto is “Where Shopping Is A Pleasure”! And this says a lot about what they aim for regarding the customer’s experience.
Staring at a cold machine while trying to pay and get on your way is neither warm, fuzzy, nor a pleasure. The hesitation of implementing this technology at the store has been heavily weighted by the wish to offer a pleasant checkout experience at the end, where you can interact with someone and get your questions answered if you have any—an impossibility for a machine at this point.
The Slow Drag To Acceptance
The method is something that first started in the restaurant industry, particularly in the fast food area, with the adoption of it first seen by the fast-food chain Piggly-Wiggly in 1986. It was not until the early 2000’s that they started gaining popularity at grocery stores. And even then, Publix was hesitant to accept this change permeating the industry.
Publix started announcing the rollout in early 2020 and implementing the self-checkout in early 2021. And even then, it has not been a massive shift as they have slowly rolled them out in Florida first, and not the other states.
The Ultimate Reason Why They Budged
In late 2020 the Florida residents made a vote that pushed Publix to start rolling out self-checkout options. That’s when Floridians voted to increase the minimum wage. At the time being $8.56 an hour, and the goal of it to be $15 per hour by the end of 2026. Unfortunately, pushing for policies like these has forced the giant supermarket chain to start preparing for the potential operation cost increase.
Even if implementing the technology itself is expensive, to begin with, increasing the minimum wage, which is usually the wage for cashiers at the supermarket, is much more detrimental to the business’s bottom line. So the decision, although painful, is a no-brainer for Publix.
Now in 2022, more than 600 stores offer self-checkout. As Publix builds brand new stores, those options are already planned for. And for older stores that come up for renovations, self-checkouts will also be part of the plan.
Maybe a little spoiled from the long history of excellent customer service, the news of these implementations and continuous roll-outs is creating a bit of a tug-of-war with Publix’s loyal customer base. First, they are unhappy that they are not encountering a friendly face at checkout but also because they know what that ultimately means.
As more of these self-checkout machines are implemented, more associates lose the opportunity to earn a wage. Although those positions are typically minimum wage, they have historically helped college students and older people who don’t have the qualifications for higher-paying jobs. And now, even those are on the line.
Publix can’t go against the natural movement in the economy and the major industry trends. Self-checkouts are here to stay, and there is nothing that any big retailer, Publix included, can do about it. Especially if those changes come accompanied by policy changes that most voters support.
So yes, Publix started implementing self-checkouts at their new stores, and as they continue to grow, they will be part of the normal floor plan and operating procedures.
Hi there, I’m JJ, and welcome To EverydayQuery! Founded in 2022, we created this project to be the most complete resource on the web for your everyday questions regarding retail, shopping experiences, and overall consumer questions. We’re a team of passionate consumers whose mission is to provide the best answers to your everyday questions.