Woman scans bottle of wine at grocery self-service checkout

The buzz started back in March.

"What's up with the Butler Walmart?" Ashley Spencer asked fellow Gainesville Word of Mouth Facebook (GWOM) group members. "Are they going full self-checkout??

Spencer noticed what Walmart employees confirmed this week. Manned checkout stations are disappearing as stores add self-checkouts.

Now even Publix Super Markets, known for its customer service-oriented stores, is joining the trend. On Thursday Publix told Mainstreet Daily News that store #690 located on Newberry Road in Jonesville is about to go through a remodel that will result in five new self-checkout stations.

"In addition to these self-checkouts, eight traditional checkout lanes will still be available for our customers," reported Chris Norberg, community relations manager for Publix Super Markets, Inc. "Instacart/Curbside services will also be introduced to this location upon completion of the remodel." 

The Jonesville Publix has a "We're Closing Early'' notice displayed at the entrance announcing that starting April 12 through May 6, the location will be closing early, at 9 p.m., to accommodate the construction.

The Hunter's Crossing Publix added four self-checkout stations more than a year ago and the Millhopper Publix added five self-checkout stations last August.

Mainstreet Daily News visited local retail stores this week to see firsthand the self-checkout scene.

The Walmart in Butler Plaza was bustling in the early afternoon. There were at least 19 self-checkouts marked as Scan & Go stations occupied by customers. A single troubleshooter cashier was standing by to help customers with any questions and to monitor the flow and social distancing requirements.

At that same time there were four traditional checkout stations, three of which were open with a cashier. All three lanes had six or more people waiting in line for personal service.

On Tuesday afternoon the Walmart in Chiefland had 17 Scan & Go self-checkout stations open and 11 regular checkout lanes, with three open and staffed by cashiers.

Lowe's in Butler Plaza had eight regular checkout stations with half manned and two self-checkout stations going unused.

Target on Archer Road in Gainesville had 14 regular checkout stations with a majority operating on Wednesday, including at least 10 manned with a cashier and an additional four self-checkout stations. One customer was at the self-checkout area, while the majority customers were at the manned checkout lanes.

Customers at these locations and on social media give mixed reviews of self-checkout stations. 

One couple at Walmart in Butler Plaza said they didn't mind self-checkouts most of the time because it was fun to scan the items, but they said they noticed a woman in a wheelchair having difficulty using one. She ended up having to hand the items to the self-checkout supervisor to accomplish the task.

"I would rather spend more money and go to Publix," commented Nicole Little on Spencer's GWOM post.

Some locals are speculating about why the installation of self-checkouts is happening now.

"I am tired of only four registers open during busy hours too," commented Susan Price. "I know minimum wage change may be a factor, but I really think some of it might be the surge in unemployment benefits too."

Last November Floridians voted to approve a constitutional amendment to gradually increase the state's minimum wage to from $8.56 to $15 per hour by 2026. 

Some customers pledge to not use self-checkouts in hopes of saving jobs.

"I tell them they do not pay me to be a cashier," Marta Kurtz commented. "I try to never use self checkout, that is a job someone really needs."

This story has been updated to include the number of self-checkouts at two Publix locations in Gainesville.

Mainstreet Daily News Reporter

Suzette Cook is a Mainstreet Daily News reporter who has been a community journalist for more than 30 years.

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