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Customers use new self-checkout station inside the exchange at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022.

Customers use new self-checkout station inside the exchange at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is rolling out 500 self-checkout units at its military department stores worldwide over the next few months.

The DIY stations will be available at AAFES exchanges, convenience stores and specialty locations, according to AAFES spokesman Chris Ward.

“Self-checkout allows more customers to be served, improves in-store productivity and increases the availability of associates on the sales floor to assist customers with purchase decisions,” he said Wednesday in an email to Stars and Stripes.

Ward declined to reveal how much the project cost, except to say the expense associated with self-checkout equipment is minimal relative to its efficiencies and the improved customer experience it provides. Self-checkout will have “no impact on staffing,” he said.

Employees who staffed checkout lanes will instead focus on answering customer questions or providing specialized service, according to Ward.

“The Exchange is steadfast in its efforts to incorporate technology to improve efficiencies and the services it is honored to provide service members and their families,” he said.

AAFES follows the Defense Commissary Agency, which installed self-checkout lanes 14 years ago at its supermarkets on U.S. military bases.

The exchange at Yokota, home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, put four self-checkout machines into service Oct. 19, store manager Andrew Defelice said Thursday as he watched customers scan their purchases.

“It’s more expeditious,” he said.

An airman uses a new self-checkout station inside the exchange at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022.

An airman uses a new self-checkout station inside the exchange at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Defelice said store employees stand by to assist employees when their items fail to properly scan.

A store employee must approve sales of alcohol and over-the-counter medicines that have age restrictions, he said.

Employees who once manned the registers will spend more time taking inventory or working on store displays, Defelice said.

People might take a while to get used to the new machines, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brent Cook, 32, of Wheeling, W.Va., as he checked out at the Yokota exchange on Thursday.

Air Force veteran Jerry Deyoe, 61, a contractor visiting Yokota on Thursday from Washington state, said he’ll still sometimes visits cashiers.

“I’ll wait in line to have some human interaction,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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