JCPenney’s To Eliminate Check-Out Clerks

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s been a hundred years since James Cash Penney opened his first store in Wyoming.

Now, the retail chain – with more than a thousand outlets – is struggling to turn a profit even though lots of people love the store.

“I love Penney’s. I’ve always liked Penney’s,” says Mary Jane Hallisey of Hopewell.

“Oh, I like it a lot. They have a lot of good stuff in there. I go all the time,” adds Olivia Kuhn of Brighton Heights.

But the store is getting a makeover – specialized boutiques within the store like a denim bar – and more.

The CEO of JCPenney is the former retail chief of Apple, and he wants to shake things up to restore the company to profitability.

But one of his ideas – replacing clerks with a self-check-out system – well, that doesn’t go over too well with some customers.

“I think it’s a bad idea all way around if you ask me,” says Jack Soffel of Robinson.

Soffel shops at Penney’s and worries that the change will result in poor customer service.

“I don’t want to walk into a place that’s so austere that it’s nothing but mechanics and automation,” he adds. “I like to talk to people, they help me, they ask me, they take me to find things.”

Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson says the store will switch the traditional bar codes on price tags to RFID’s – or radio frequency identification chips – and use self-service checkout machines found in many grocery stores.

“That’s taking away jobs from people,” notes Kuhn. “People need to work and make money. Plus, if I’m coming to the store, I want to have someone there to help me.”

Now, JCPenney will not be eliminating store clerks all together. Each of the proposed boutiques within the store will have its staff.

But beginning in 2014, at check-out you’ll be on your own.

In an email, a Penny’s spokesman would not say how many jobs would be lost, saying instead this new check-out would actually free employees to help customers in other ways.

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