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New Law Could Ban Self-Checkout at Walmart and Target

Officials are looking to restrict retailers from using these machines as a safety measure.

At times, using self-checkout was the only option many of us had when shopping at certain stores. But recently, several retailers have started to curb their reliance on these machines amid rising theft and customer complaints. And now, a new law could force some stores to ban self-checkout altogether.

On Feb. 16, California Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas introduced a new bill to the state senate targeting "self-checkout stations in large grocery and drug retail stores," according to Smallwood-Cuevas' website. Referred to as a "self-checkout ban," bill SB 1446 aims to impose new regulations on retailers such as Walmart and Target that use these machines.

RELATED: Walmart Worker Issues Warning to Shoppers About Self-Checkout.

If the bill were to pass, certain companies would be banned from offering self-checkout options to customers in California unless they meet five specific conditions, reported Los Angeles-based news outlet KTLA 5.

One of the most notable of these requirements is that shoppers could only use self-checkout if they are purchasing 10 or fewer items. This is something many retailers, including Target, have already started implementing at most of their stores nationwide.

The new bill would also require that retailers prohibit customers from using self-checkouts to purchase certain products. This includes items that require an ID check, such as alcohol and tobacco, as well as "items subject to special theft-deterrent measures," such as "locked cabinets and electronic article surveillance tags, that require the intervention of an employee of the establishment for the customer to access or purchase the item."

SB 1146 also has certain conditions tied to staffing. To offer self-checkout services, retailers in the state would need at least one manual checkout station that is staffed by an employee available to customers at the same time.

Employees would have to be present to monitor self-checkouts, too. However, one employee couldn't monitor more than two self-checkout lanes at once, and any employee monitoring a self-checkout station could not oversee other duties at the same time. In other words, an employee supervising self-checkout can't simultaneously operate the manual checkout station.

RELATED: Fact Check: Are Walmart and Target Charging Shoppers to Use Self-Checkout?

This new bill is meant to help protect employees, as Senator Smallwood-Cuevas and other labor advocates supporting SB 1446 claim that "the proliferation of self-checkout has caused [an] increase in theft and violence" against grocery and retail store workers in California, according to a May 6 press release.

"While it's crucial to adapt to new technologies, protecting jobs and worker safety must be prioritized in the process," Senator Smallwood-Cuevas said in a statement accompanying the release. "SB 1446 will protect workers and the public by ensuring safe staffing levels at grocery and drug retail stores and regulating self-checkout machines."

California Labor Federation COO Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher added that "no one wants to shop in stores staffed by machines instead of workers, [as] replacing grocery workers with automated self-checkout machines has made stores less safe for everyone."

"This bill ensures safe staffing and limitations on self-checkout to protect good jobs in the industry, restore safety and reduce organized theft," Fletcher noted in her statement.

Best Life has reached out to both Walmart and Target to see if they have any comments on the newly proposed California bill, and we will update this story with their response.

But it seems that the bill already has some opposition. The California Retailers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce recently sent a letter to Senator Smallwood-Cuevas stating that they "respectfully oppose" SB 1446.

According to the letter, the organizations believe it would "place unnecessary restrictions on retail grocery and pharmacy stores implementing self-checkout," adding that the restrictions are "misguided and unnecessary and will not result in reduced retail theft in stores."

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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