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JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson Wants To Eliminate The Person Standing At The Cash Register

JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson Wants To Eliminate The Person Standing At The Cash Register

JCPenney CEO and former Apple retail guru Ron Johnson is speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, and he revealed a bit of what his strategy is for store checkout.

He wants to eliminate the employees who stand at cash registers and get rid of traditional checkout by the end of 2013.


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Alright there Mr. Krugman...

Quick, break windows so we can hire someone to fix them on the cheap!

I'm sorry, but this is how progress works. The savings brought on by increasing productivity will be used to lower prices and stay competitive or to bring on improvements in other areas of the store.

If JCPenny should purposely waste money to keep cashiers employed, why not hire more cashiers than necessary and just pay them to stand around? The cashiers are obviously unneeded, but their needs are the arbiter of what JCPenny should hire. May want to hire a few coach and buggy drivers out front, maybe some chimney sweepers as well.

Eric Hoffer

You haven't saved a dime

if the customer cannot appreciate the change.

When standing on a principle, we cannot get caught in the linear thinking trap.


I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about.

Eric Hoffer

That's a surprise


Another effect of government regulation through minimum wage

Forcing employers to pay higher and higher minimum wages makes it more and more expensive to hire employees for the type of labor they have to offer. So if JC Penny can save money by not paying out multiple exorbitantly high minimum wages, then good for them. I'm sure they would love to employ more people, but the government is making it increasingly more expensive. That's why more and more automated services are in the market. That's why we talk to computers when we call places. That's why self checkout is growing more and more.

We wouldn't have to worry about minimum wages of the government didn't inflate the currency. If we let things deflate, pay can go down more as well, it just means all the money you saved previously would be worth more. Shoot, knowing our government they would probably institute maximum wages in a free market deflationary environment, haha!

Anyway...all that to say: if the government just minded it's own business, let businesses alone, an governed by the constitution, we wouldn't be having this problem.

Totally agree

And, re: government instituting maximum wages, there is no question they will when it suits them, because they have done so before. The example that I know about is in WWII(it was an inflationary environment then, but whatever). That was the beginning of the US health care crisis. Wage ceilings for certain professions were created, so in order to compete for scarce labor, some companies lobbied for and obtained permission to offer health insurance as compensation in addition to the maximum wage that could be paid. After that, the option to offer wages in the form of fringe benefits was picked up by so many employers that most people said nothing when the HMO act was enacted a mere 30 years later.

Effing government.

good facts!

I do recall hearing/reading that at some point now that you mention it!

I would like this only if...

the took the impact of a salaried employee and put those savings into reducing the retail cost of clothes.

It astounds me already when macy's can get away with selling a shirt that was $60 in spring for $3 in fall. So, I can't imagine this would effect the bottom line price, but if that $60 shirt became $30 it may seem a better value.

Just a thought, and I am sure the savings would go to the shareholder not the customer.

I feel your pain, but I still wouldn't be mad at JC Penny

or the free market...it's just how it works

If they're in trouble financially, saving money by reducing employees and then reducing prices won't help them balance their budget or create a profit. Could prices fall a little? Maybe, but I doubt it. And you would probably be correct that the first people to get returns from the savings and profits would be those shareholders who have risked their own money to fund the company. That's the reward for taking the risk in the free market. Hopefully they can turn it around!

As far as the prices go too, that's just how it works. They create a product that is in high demand for a season and thus they are able to keep prices high because there is a demand for it and people will pay for it, but once those clothes become passe and its time for the next season's clothes, there is less demand and in order to sell what they have created to cover their costs, they need to sell them at a lower price to entice people to get clothes that may or may not be in style for the next time that season comes around or that may or may not fit them next time.

The market creates a balance...it's very interesting to me. The housing bubble isn't much different...massive amounts of houses (clothes) produced, demand was high, prices were high, once no one could buy/wanted to buy, prices dropped, but instead of letting prices balance and the market take care of itself, the government is trying to keep prices high by injecting money into the economy to artificially keep demand high(er). If the government just let the housing market/economy balance out like JC Penny does with their clothes lines every season, we would be in much better shape!

Anyway..what's interesting/unfortunate is, if government just stayed out of the market, JC Penny could not only afford the employees, but could also make products cheaper and cheaper over the years and your money could purchase more and more. Production and costs would continually drop so that they wouldn't be so expensive from the get-go. It's the beauty of the free market and a deflationary environment. The consumer benefits.

never use self check out

i always go the lanes with a human

Home Depot practically already has

I don't shop there if I can help it but I stopped in there a few weeks ago and when I checked out there were no cashiers at the few registers there were but there were plenty of self check lanes. This is getting more and more common.

I remember when Sac-N-Save opened up and you had to bag your own groceries. Sounds great but are you really saving money or are the stores saving the money and making you do the work of their employees.

But the self check lanes

have a person (stands at the end in the center) who helps you when things don't go quite right - which is often - at least for me.

The "too far" moment will be when you no longer need to swipe a card but will swipe your hand instead.

The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous…God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.
Ron Paul - The Revolution

Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms. Ron Paul


...many of us will be outta here before we see that!


I did mess up and double swipe an item but I had to get someone to help because they were not right there. I didn't realize they were suppose to be stationed there.

I agree with your "too far" example also. How far will we go in the name of convenience, or in the name of "better health care"? What happens to us when the masses rush to get themselves chipped and in time we will not be able to make purchases without it?

Any business owner should be able to...

...employ whatever methods, technology, and personnel they wish to in the course of doing their business provided they aren't initiating force against anyone else in doing so.


it will free up labor.

Efficiency in a free market is always welcome.

I bet they'll save a fortune on payroll. The prices of the products hopefully will go down, too.

Were you being sarcastic?

Were you being sarcastic?

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

I agree

This is progress. One must keep in mind that the sole responsibility of the persons managing a company is to produce higher profits for the company. This means reducing costs and increasing revenues. The natural and JUST progression should always be towards this end. By eliminating unskilled workers that have been deemed unnecessary by management, after careful (I’m sure) consideration, the company can put to better use the capital that they have previously used to pay these unskilled and, at the risk of sounding crass, useless employees. This means that, ultimately, the company will have more capital to invest in activities and/or products that will generate revenue and (hopefully) profit.

It is NOT the responsibility of the company (those running it) to provide jobs to people. The company does not “owe” the cashiers a job. It is the responsibility of the cashier to continually strive to become better educated and/or skilled so that he or she can progress professionally. If the cashier fails to recognize or simply refuses to respond to the progression of technology that will put them out of a job, it is the cashier’s “fault” for not responding to changing conditions and being “left behind”. It is not the “fault” of the company nor should the company spend more than about 2 seconds contemplating the morality of the move that will cause X number of people to be out of a job. The only moral obligation that the company has is to it’s owners/share-holders.

One must also be mindful of the fact that, as a company grows and streamlines with the use of modern technology, they are creating (in most cases) NEW jobs. The wonderful difference here is that, often, these new jobs are SKILLED jobs. This means that, the elimination of 5 unskilled cashiers might create 1 skilled job (for example, I’m sure that the automated/computerized POS systems require maintenance and they require developers to create/maintain/update the software). If the unskilled cashier would have simply spent time learning to maintain/fix the computerized POS or write software, they would find themselves moved out of a low-paying job into a higher paying CAREER. This is WONDERFUL progress for sure. But, who’s responsibility it is to make this happen? The company? Absolutely not!! It’s the individual’s responsibility to his/her self.

In summary, if any “moral wrong” has been committed here, it was committed by the cashiers. They have failed themselves – the worst moral sin that I can imagine!

Thank you.

Seems like pretty standard constitutional and libertarian thought to me, but I guess some people aren't getting it here. Thank you for the explanation.

I think we need to hit a re-set button. America's founders had

it right. And at this point in time, we need to restore more than the Constitution. The founders never intended for the United State of America to function as an oligarchy, i.e., rule by a few - whether that power over citizens would be concentrated in the hands of the federal government, banks, or corporations. (Today it rests in the hands of a few in all three categories - who themselves are aligned.) My question was genuine, whether the comment was meant sarcastically. It's beyond my comprehension to think that anyone could value either corporations or machines above human beings. And, no I'm not a socialist as someone shot back. I believe in the free-market system over centralized ownership and/or planning. But perhaps some of you here are not aware of how corporations were MEANT to operate and how that evolved to the current situation. My awakening in this regard came via Kalle Lasn's Culture Jam. I urge you to read this short piece summarizing the history of corporations. http://www.reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/his...

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

"If it's all about jobs...

then let's get rid of the heavy equipment and dig ditches with spoons."

~Gary Johnson

It's not all about jobs, Gary

It's about people. I love financial guru Suzie Orman, who's mantra is: people first, then money, then things.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Simple economics disagrees

Simple economics disagrees with Suze.

I don't think so.

The way it used to work with corporations, people did come first. Our basic rights come from our Creator; the rights of corporations came from us. Corporations were there to serve us, not the other way around. It was capitalism for the first half of this country's existence - but with safeguards to prevent the kind of circumstances we have today. There are various issues, one being that corporations began to gain human rights (!) thanks to a sidebar of a misguided judge in the case Santa Clara County v. The Southern Pacific Railroad. (See the article link above.)

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Good quote.

Founders had it right?

Founders? Which of them are you referring to? I could talk about this for DAYS! However, because I have work to do, I’ll simply suggest that you spend some time examining Hamilton and then re-think your post.

Um, no.

Are you being socialist? A job for everyone no matter how unnecessary or unproductive it is?

um NO.

THE CONSUMER decides what should be done and what is nec/unnecessary.
JCP is almost out of business. This is their last hope to cut payroll which is big overhead.
Besides this was tried 15 years ago at grocery stores and has not worked and has cost them money in the long run. If it didnt work at grocery stores it certainly wont work at department stores.

"OH NO! He has a SON?" Neoconservatives and Liberals EVERYWHERE!

Rand Paul 2016

That is Keynesianism

The consumer does not decide anything for businesses in a free-market (demand side). Instead, businesses react to consumer behaviour (supply side).

If you don't like dealing with a computer checkout system, but the company is making money anyway, you don't get to decide anything for them. You, however, are free to decide FOR YOURSELF to shop elsewhere. OTOH, some people who hate interacting with salespeople will decide FOR THEMSELVES to start shopping there, even as you are heading out in a huff.

It is the free-market reacting to these billions of individual market choices that create prosperity, not consumers (or even government) trying to direct how businesses behave. It is a small difference in real terms, but a HUGE philosophical difference.


1. The consumer DOES

1. The consumer DOES decide.
In by, forcing corporate to take action they would have otherwise not made. JCP , as I stated is taking this action, even though they know it is not a solution, it WILL cut their PAYROLL overhead substantially and they are taking a risk. The consumer decides because JCP will be out of business if they do this, in my opinion.
2. that is NOT keynesianism, when the consumer decides.
3.My comment was referenced to this particular article and JCP decision.
so when you write;
"If you don't like dealing with a computer checkout system, but the company is making money anyway, you don't get to decide anything for them. You, however, are free to decide FOR YOURSELF to shop elsewhere. OTOH, some people who hate interacting with salespeople will decide FOR THEMSELVES to start shopping there, even as you are heading out in a huff."

I was not talking about me.... I never mentioned me.. I mentioned the consumer. so that entire paragraph you wrote was based on MY opinion which was NEVER stated, only the outcome was my opinion.

you are preaching/teaching me something I all ready know, and I guess youre looking for a "youre right." because there was no reason to write this when I wrote the CONSUMER will decide in by, wait for it...

JCP will not be in business if they enact what , theyve said. The consumer would never put up with that. If they would, these would have been installed everywhere years ago. no new stores get them because they are a consumer failure. The consumer decided they did not like them and no more have been introduced with very very few exceptions.

The consumer decides.
the consumer decides.
the consumer ddcides.

"OH NO! He has a SON?" Neoconservatives and Liberals EVERYWHERE!

Rand Paul 2016