The French retailer Auchan is facing a boycott in Romania after the decision to replace cashiers with self-check-out systems. So, instead of having your products scanned, from now on, when buying from Auchan Romania, you will scan and pay for the products themselves and scan the receipt to let them out of the store. This is progress, Auchan says.
As part of the company’s modernization and digitalization processes, Auchan has remodelled store checkout lines and built a 100% self-checkout path for customers. Thanks to the new checkout system, customers benefit from a reduced waiting time at checkouts, all permanently open. In addition, all employees in the checkout area are moving to a new job, that of adviser, their new role being to provide advice and support to customers.Auchan Romania on the decision to replace cashiers with self-check-out
So far, the decision has managed to do a few things. The first is to bring chaos to the self-pay areas, as people are unfamiliar with using the systems. Indeed, at least one Auchan employee is there to help people learn how to be a cashier, but it takes time, and customers show they lose patience. It’s not digitalization if you make me scan the products myself and insert the bills or the credit card to pay for them.
The second “accomplishment” is that former cashiers will lose their jobs. All the cashiers are learning how to help clients pick up and scan their products – this is one of the lamest examples of justifying a purely economic decision. Auchan is now cutting positions and finally jobs – even if they are currently keeping the cashiers in other positions, not all cashiers will adapt and not all the jobs will be kept after the former cashiers will leave the company. As simple as that.
So, Auchan made customers put in the additional effort by making them self-scan and pay for the products, pretending this was progress, digitalization, modernization and technological development. If this is progress, we expect restaurants where you will have to go to the kitchen and fry your spicy chicken and prepare your French fries after washing and chopping the potatoes yourself.
The real reason for replacing employees with technology: employment taxation in Romania is enormous
The reality here is that employment taxation in Romania is enormous. On average, employers pay 73% in additional taxes for salaries, which is unsustainable in the long term. For each EUR 500 monthly salary paid to each cashier, Auchan pays an additional EUR 365 to the state budget. That means millions of Euros in the long run, which are now saved by introducing self-check-out and forcing customers to scan their products. Auchan cuts thousands of positions, makes customers learn how to be a cashier and saves millions.
So, it’s not only about the money each employee cashed in at the end of each month; it’s also about saving the money the state cashed in taxes. Specialists estimate that the actual cost of employment in Romania for each employee is at least double the net salary if we include all the spending an employee means to employers.
Boycotting foreign companies seems to be the most recent of all forms of protest in Romania. After Austria blocked the country’s access to Schengen, Romanians called for boycotting the Austrian products, a move which is still ongoing. France could be the next target if this “modernization” continues in Auchan or other French or foreign retailers.