If you’re tired of waiting in line while the cashier takes his/her sweet time ringing through the person in front of you, here’s some good news: self-service check-out technology appears to be thriving.

While I’m not an enthusiastic shopper, I noticed over the weekend that two big chains – Canadian Tire and Loblaws – have both installed self-service kiosks where consumers can scan and then pay for their purchases. The technology is far from perfect but it’s pretty impressive given the UI is pretty intuitive, there’s a variety of ways to pay, and you can even get cash back rather than visit the ATM.

That said, it does seem a bit strange to buy stuff without dealing with someone at the end. The check-out has been an essential element of the retail experience, even in the grocery and big-box worlds which already make you do most of the work. It has always been the place where shopping turns personal rather than just being a transaction. A good cashier can provide that final dose of customer service to keep you coming back.

Then again, a cashier can also cost a retailer $10 to $15/hour. At a time when the economy is slowing, competition is fierce and margins are under pressure, retailers are looking for ways to reduce costs and/or make their businesses more efficient. For many of them, self-service check-out technology can offer enough of a ROI to make it a no-brainer investment given

As well, consumers seem to like the idea of controlling their own check-out destiny. From what I’ve seen, no one was complaining about checking themselves out.

To suggest that self-service check-out technology is going to force cashiers into extinction would be inaccurate but it’s something many retailers are going to embrace. Any retailer selling commodities will find it increasingly compelling, while others such as clothing retailers may find there’s no replacement for the personal touch.

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