Episode 730: Self Checkout : Planet Money A doctor treating psychiatric patients in an emergency room created the first self-checkout machine in his spare time. Now he can't stand self checkout. So we take him shopping.
NPR logo

Episode 730: Self Checkout

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/498571623/498627870" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Episode 730: Self Checkout

Episode 730: Self Checkout

Episode 730: Self Checkout

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/498571623/498627870" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Howard Schneider was a doctor treating psychiatric patients in the ER when he decided to transform the grocery store experience. He set out to invent the self checkout machine.

Some parts of the design were pretty straightforward, like reading barcodes and taking payments. Other things, it turned out, were not so easy. Like figuring out when people are stealing. Schneider solves these problems. Or at least makes a machine that's good enough to use. In 1992, he eventually convinces a grocery store to install the machines. The result? Angry shoppers.

Now, hundreds of thousands of grocery stores all around the world use self-checkout machines. But customers are still frustrated.


Today on the show, how a doctor created the first self-checkout machine in his spare time. Also: why does grocery store checkout still suck?


Music: "Remember The First Time" and "Wandering Around." Find us: Twitter/Facebook