Dollar General Is Rolling Out a Major Store Change — And Shoppers Are Not Happy

published May 29, 2024
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METAIRIE, LA, USA - JULY 25, 2023: Front of the Dollar General Store on Airline Drive
Credit: William A. Morgan/Shutterstock

Self-checkout can be your best friend when you need to make a super-quick shopping trip. However, in some Dollar General locations, it’s no longer as do-it-yourself as you’d expect. Joining retailers like Walmart, which recently removed all self-checkout kiosks, and Five Below, Dollar General is scaling back self-checkout initiatives. The company is removing self-checkout kiosks and introducing more employee assistance in order to combat its increasing shrink percentage, which is a measure of a business’s financial health that includes store theft.

“I walked up to the self-checkout and there was an employee both at the register and in front of the self-checkout,” wrote one Reddit user about a recent visit to Dollar General. “She scanned my items for me, put the cash in the self-checkout for me, gave me my change, and put them in a bag.” Under the post titled, “It’s not called self-checkout anymore?” many apparent Dollar General employees chimed in, explaining that this is reportedly a new company procedure referred to as “line buster” to cut back on customers using self-checkout by themselves.

This phenomenon of assisted self-checkout was introduced during Dollar General’s Q4 2023 earnings call on March 14, according to a transcript shared on Yahoo! Finance. During the call, Dollar General’s Chief Financial Officer, Kelly Dilts, explained the store had a decrease in gross profit, mainly due to “increases in shrink (which includes theft) and markdowns, lower inventory markups, and a greater proportion of sales coming from the consumables category” — and net sales decreased 3.4%, down to $9.9 billion in 2023 as compared to $10.2 billion in 2022.

Considering these losses, Dollar General announced three ways to combat them (to much customer chagrin). According to the call, the company has self-checkout in 14,000 stores, and all of them will be affected by at least one prong of this self-checkout rollback plan. First, Dollar General will convert “some or all” self-checkout registers in 9,000 stores into assisted checkout. These are still meant to cut down lines during busy times (hence the aforementioned “line buster” strategy), but will require staff assistance while checking out. In other stores, self-checkout will be limited to customers with five items or fewer. Finally, Dollar General will remove self-checkout kiosks entirely from 300 of the “highest shrink stores.” 

Shoppers are furious at how this could slow down their checkout process. One Reddit user commented that their Dollar General location apparently put “out-of-order” signs on the checkout registers that resulted in the “longest” line they’d ever seen. Other Reddit users also reported similar signage in their stores, which steered them to the longer regular checkout lanes.

Employees are also unhappy with how the change has been rolled out. They report feeling that this is an additional responsibility that is not being accounted for in their schedules. “They expect us to full stock freight, clean/straighten the shelves, [and] run the registers,” wrote an apparent Dollar General employee on the Reddit thread. It’s unclear from the call how or if Dollar General is accounting for changes to self-checkout in employees’ schedules. 

While the store is reducing their current product lineup by 8% to 9%, eliminating 1,000 unique items on shelves, Dollar General has been doubling down on the number of affordable grocery products for customers, including fresh produce offerings. With more customers going to stores to buy their groceries (and fewer self-checkout options), you might expect to see longer lines and more congestion.

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Dollar General Is Rolling Out a Major Store Change — And Shoppers Are Not Happy