The Reason Trader Joe's Doesn't Have Self-Checkouts

If you're not a huge fan of making small talk with the cashier every time you go grocery shopping, chances are you head straight for the self-checkout. An increasing number of grocery chains have installed the convenient checkout option in their stores since they were rolled out in the 1990s. Today, you can find them at almost every retailer. At Trader Joe's, however, they're nowhere to be found, and according to the company's CEO Bryan Palbaum, that's entirely by design.


"We believe in people, and we're not trying to get rid of our crew members for efficiency's sake, or whatever the reasons people put self-checkout in," Palbaum explained in an August 2023 episode of the Trader Joe's podcast. Despite being a major national chain, Trader Joe's has a longstanding reputation for being a friendly local grocer that it plans to uphold. If you replace human interaction with a bunch of self-checkouts, the store loses its signature charm.

How self-checkouts could change Trader Joe's

Anyone who regularly shops at Trader Joe's knows that sometimes you have to put up with long lines because of how small the store is. There are even Twitter accounts dedicated to helping people determine whether or not it's worth taking a trip to the store based on the current length of the line. So you'd think installing self-checkouts would alleviate this situation, but the truth is, it's unlikely it would make much of a difference.


In 2021, BBC experimented to see whether self-checkouts were more efficient than cashiers and found that they were slower, contrary to popular belief. Regardless, retailers still put self-checkouts in their stores because it makes customers feel as if they're paying for their items faster. It also eliminates the need for paid employees. Neither is Trader Joe's top priority, so there isn't a good reason for the chain to start offering a self-checkout option.

Will Trader Joe's ever get self-checkout?

In light of the growing popularity of self-checkouts, rumors that Trader Joe's would soon be introducing them at its stores have been going around for quite some time, but unfortunately for customers who like having the option, Trader Joe's has already confirmed that the rumors aren't true. "That's a double false. That's as false as false can be," Palbaum stressed.


There's always a chance it'll change in the future, but Trader Joe's hiring practices are a pretty good indicator that it won't be backtracking on its decision to forgo self-checkouts. Palbaum mentioned in another episode of the podcast, titled "Why is everyone so nice?," that Trader Joe's specifically hires cashiers not only based on their ability to handle transactions but also on how personable they are. If Trader Joe's is still going out of its way to hire cashiers who are extra friendly, it doesn't make sense that they'd replace them with self-checkout machines any time soon.