6 Self-Checkout Mistakes That Are Costing You Big, Experts Warn
Some of these problems are more serious than others, but all can be easily fixed.
Self-checkout has taken the retail world by storm, making its way into grocery stores, clothing chains, and big-box stores. But the convenience of faster lines and less human interaction doesn't come without its own set of issues. Unlike store cashiers, shoppers aren't trained in scanning and bagging items, and technology can sometimes be confusing. On top of that, there are a number of other complications that could have you spending more than you should be. To find out where you might be going wrong, read on for six self-checkout mistakes that will cost you big.
You're not checking for skimmers before you pay.
Criminals will do whatever they can to get access to your financial accounts, including putting skimmers on card machines at major retailers. But while cashiers can inspect their own readers, Michael Podolsky, CEO and co-founder of the consumer advocacy platform PissedConsumer.com, tells Best Life that shoppers forget to think about skimmers that could be attached to self-checkout machines.
"To safeguard one's financial data, a consumer should take a brief moment to examine the machine for any unfamiliar attachments before payment," Podolsky warns.
Criminals have the most opportunity to install skimmers at self-checkouts, because of the lack of workers, according to Marie Clark, a retail expert and editor of the shopping site CostContessa.
"Card scanners can happen at any store—even large and reputable stores like Costco or Target," Clark says. "If you can't use a digital payment, use a credit card over an ATM if possible, and check the cards reader carefully. The plastic should be all one piece, and generally the card readers on all the self-checkout registers will look the same—so if yours looks different, that's another red flag."
You're forgetting to double-check for price discrepancies.
Several major retailers have made headlines recently for overcharging issues, as customers have spotted price discrepancies or additional charges when using self-checkout machines. With that in mind, it's good to be extra careful.
"Sometimes, the price on the shelf differs from the price at checkout," Michael Wilson, a technology expert and the chief technology officer at EcoMotionCentral, says. "Always pay attention to the screen to ensure you're charged correctly."
You're not watching every item get scanned.
Price-scanning errors are not the only reason you might end up being overcharged, however. As Clark explains, children often love trying to get involved and scanning items themselves at the self-checkout. But if you're letting them help out, you need to be supervising them through the entire process.
"Sometimes an item scan is delayed a second or two, and children can rescan it thinking it didn't work and accidentally scan items twice," Clark warns. "To ensure you don't over or under pay, watch kids and the items as they are added to ensure it's been done accurately."
You're not using your store card.
When you are doing everything yourself, you don't have someone there reminding you of the things you might forget—like using your rewards or points cards, Alex Veytsman, a wealth management expert and founder of The Offer Sheet, explains.
"Many grocery stores have cards that allow you to collect different rewards. At a regular checkout, the cashier will normally ask you for it, which means you don't have to remember to have it ready all the time," Veytsman notes. "At a self-checkout, it's possible it might not ask you, so always remember to try and have it ready to scan. This way you aren't missing out on extra points which can save you money on whatever rewards system they have."
You're not checking expiration dates.
As with reward card reminders, cashiers will often look to ensure that the items they're scanning have not passed their expiration dates. Are you doing the same at self-checkout?
"Self-checkout means you're responsible for picking good products," Wilson warns.
To avoid buying any spoiled or expired goods, he suggests that shoppers always check the expiration dates on any products they are scanning themselves.
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You're blocking the camera's view.
Most self-checkout machines have cameras that are watching and monitoring shoppers through the entire process. They usually record what you're scanning as well, according to Clay Cary, a consumer trends analyst and the lead analyst at CouponFollow.
But problems can arise when people accidentally block the camera's view with their bags or bulky items—which happens more often than you might think.
"This can lead to disputes over purchases and create headaches for consumers and retailers alike," Cary says. "So always ensure the camera has an unblocked view of the transaction, as clear video evidence can help resolve potential conflicts."