Guest Post: Self Scanners at Costco

March 13th, 2012 · 16 Comments

[Today’s Guest Post is about a topic that will probably get the attention of anyone that has stood in a long, long, long line at Costco and thought there should be a quicker way to check out.  I miss the self scanning lanes that we had at our US Costco in Austin, but for some reason they don’t have them here even though a lot of other stores have them around us.  In any case, this takes the self scanner concept a little step further and I love it!  And I definitely want them at my store too!]

Self scanning unit

I often pop into Costco for just a few items, so I was very pleased my local Costco had several self-checkout lines. Unfortunately, last September they went away after Labor Day weekend, and I was told by the customer service employees that the self-checkout wasn’t any faster than the regular checkout. Now that they’ve been gone for half a year, I disagree. Perhaps on a per-customer basis it averages out, but now when I have two items I’m still waiting for the family doing their monthly purchase and I get impatient.

Scan your items as you go

At one point, I went to a different location in Chandler (the location at 595 S Galleria Way) and they had something fascinating – a handheld scanner similar to those given out for wedding/baby registry accounts. When I walked in, there was a wall of them, and I just scanned my membership card and one of the units was unlocked and released to me. There was a screen that looped a tutorial that I watched for a minute, and I was on my way.

Each cart has a holster for it, and when you place items in your cart you scan the UPC and indicate the quantity. Changing your mind requires pressing the minus button and rescanning the item. When you get to the checkout computer, an employee takes your handheld scanner unit, does a cursory look at your basket, and you review your order on a screen and make your payment.

It was not without hiccups, but I attribute them to user error. I wish my Costco store would get these in their location, or create a 15-item-or-less line for people like myself.  Unfortunately, when I called the Costco store in Chandler, they said that they are the only location in the Phoenix metro area that have them with no current plans to expand while they ‘work the kinks out’.

Mike Pirone


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16 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Beachey // 2015.10.21 at 7:07 pm

    The Galleria Way Costco in Chandler was our main Costco. They just eliminated these scanners about a month ago. My wife especially was a big fan. I asked one of the Costco workers and he told me there were too many discrepancies when they checked your receipt at the exit. He did not say this this but I interpreted this as meaning too many people were trying to cheat. I guess it is possible that it was really honest mistakes and not attempts to cheat. It sounds like this was a trial but they had them quite a while, at least over a year.

  2. 2 joe davis // 2015.07.09 at 7:49 pm

    They just discontinued them at the Manhattan 117th street
    What a shame — it was a very good system
    Can we run a petition to bring it back?

  3. 3 Carleton // 2015.06.14 at 10:08 pm

    I was in the Manhattan (New York – east end of 117 St near FDR Drive) Costco yesterday and used the self scan equipment. There was a sign saying it would be discontinued within the week because “it does not work for us”. Too bad. It was fast and convenient and avoided the lines.

  4. 4 Jesse // 2015.06.11 at 12:10 am

    Self checkout is cooperate filth! When you use the machine you are taking somebody’s job away; if the cashier you built a relationship with see’s you using one it can potentially harden his/her soul and may even come back to haunt you later.

    The people that serve you are important for the city. Just wait in line and have some human interaction. Self checkout averages out to be running 5 items per minute while your experienced cashier is at 20 to 30 items per minute.

    • 5 Chuck // 2015.06.24 at 1:21 pm

      Wow @Jesse – Spelling errors ignored I’m shocked at your reaction. I love talking to the Costco staff but I also love not standing in a checkout line for 10 minutes waiting to have my items scanned. I’m sure Costco could use the minds and intelligence of the staff in other areas of the store besides in the cashier position. Gone are the days and the jobs of the home milk delivery man, and the full service gas station attendant (save NJ I guess) and America is better for it. We should always look for ways to be more efficient and place our countries workers in the most advanced positions possible.

      To stay on topic I’ll note that the Costco in San Marcos, CA just lost their scanners – the two store staffers I talked to didn’t give a reason why but indicted that they are not coming back. Too bad but I guess it will give Jesse cause to celebrate 🙁

  5. 6 Sean // 2012.06.02 at 12:40 pm

    I work for CDS at the North Gilbert store, so I’ve been down there and seen these myself. I must say they ARE very nice. That being said, you have to remember that very nice also means very expensive. Costco is not a major profit store. It may seem like some of their products are a little expensive but this is usually because one of a couple things. First, Costco does their best to sell HIGH QUALITY products, unlike other cheaper places like Sams. Secondly, on the things that are normal brands, Sams tends to be cheaper because…well its Wal-mart. We all know that Wal-mart has a stranglehold on most business and can forcibly squeeze every last drop of savings out of it’s suppliers. In truth costco doesn’t mark any product up more than 15% at MOST. this is normally the minimum mark up at any other store.

    So since their product sales basically only pay their employee’s salaries and all profit comes from memberships alone (and some of that is lost when they reward their executive members) They take their time before making any big and expensive changes. If things work out with these new prototypes then we may see a new way to shop in the future, but you must be patient.

  6. 7 Paul Murray // 2012.04.29 at 12:16 am

    I’ve been to that Chandler Costco, and I now drive out of my way to shop at that club. Gilbert is closer at only 2 miles. Tempe is 5 miles. Chandler is 8 miles, but worth it. When you go to the special closeout desk, there is never a line. I’ve only seen two problems. The first one was my error. Apparently I did not void an item correctly and the entire order had to be rescanned. The second time the system had just gone down. But I patiently waited 10 minutes for them to reboot the self scan system

  7. 8 Carrie // 2012.03.28 at 3:12 am

    I would love the handheld scanners.

    I am one of those families buying a month’s worth of groceries at a time, and being able to scan as I load the cart, and being able to skip unloading the cart, would make my shopping trips easier.

  8. 9 Gayle Corall // 2012.03.22 at 7:17 pm

    If you think this is cool, take a look at what these guys are doing. Same concept but you use your own mobile phone

  9. 10 Danielle // 2012.03.14 at 8:19 pm

    When asked about the self-checkout at our local Costco (Staten Island, NY) we were told that it is unfair and that everyone has to wait – we are all members and no one should be able to check out faster then someone else – ugh whatever, thankfully when we go it is never an insane wait – it was that way when we lived in Brooklyn, NY and wound up cancelling our membership.

    I am ALL FOR the scanners though we have them at our local Stop and Shop and OMG I LOVE IT – totally makes shopping a breeze and we bring our “green” grocery bags, scan and pack and its great for price checking so that you know you are getting the accurate price of an item! When shopping with kids it is faster and more efficient to just pick pack and go!

  10. 11 Shaye // 2012.03.14 at 9:59 am

    We still have the self checkouts in Indianapolis. (Or at least we did last week.) I’m heading back over there this weekend, I sure hope they’re still there!

  11. 12 Neil // 2012.03.14 at 8:40 am

    The self checkout lanes have been pulled from US Costcos 🙁 Ours (Woodinville) was one of the original pilot locations and we LOVED them. But they were all yanked out, never to be seen again.


  12. 13 Laurie // 2012.03.14 at 6:59 am

    Highly unlikely that Costco would implement a quick checkout.

    Part of their marketing strategy is for your shopping trip to be a treasure hunt. To find that interesting item that will only be there for a short time, that you just have to pick up.

    If they limit your items, well, less incentive for you to impulse buy.

    They don’t want people running in for 2 or 3 items (which I often do), they want people to come in and SHOP.

  13. 14 Mike // 2012.03.13 at 11:44 pm

    I think Costco should introduce express checkout lanes where people who have, say 5 items or less, can go to.

  14. 15 Maria S. // 2012.03.13 at 7:53 pm

    WOW! I LOVE this idea! I frequently use self-checkout but can never get my loot packed quickly and neatly at the other end. Fill the cart once? Fabulous!

  15. 16 Tanya // 2012.03.13 at 7:27 am

    We have these self-scanners at our local Waitrose grocery store and I love them! I like that I am only handling each item one time–pick item up, scan it, and put it directly into my own carrier bags in the cart. This completely eliminates having to unload the “trolley” onto the conveyor belt and then pack them into my own bags after the cashier scans them. I love efficiency!

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