Wal-Mart installs scanning-handhelds, so that customers can scan their goods by themselves and at the check-out they only need to pay, there's no need to pack anymore, and therefore there are also no waiting lines anymore.
But there are also huge advantages for Wal-Mart: Detailed customer profiles are possible. Not only paths that customers walked can be analyzed, but also specific discount can be granted for each customer, depending on his preferences. So if you buy a pack of chips and the systems knows that you normally buy bud light after that, the handheld could give you a special discount on miller light and thus change your habits.
By giving customer-specific discounts, products don't cost the same for every customer. Their prices depend more and more on his preferences and his buying power.
Arguments: After the press release of self-scanning retail stores in switzerland, feedback in the media didn't pick up the topic of privacy. I think the customer should be informed about the possibilities, that the retailer has by collecting customer-data. So that the customer can decide whether the cost of privacy-loss is lower than the profit of using the new technology.
By now the swiss retailer Coop denies collecting of data: "No data is going to be evaluated, the effort would be too disproportional in terms of personal ressources and infrastructure usage". This statement may be true at the moment. But any other statement would have released too much opposition against this project. Retailers are already analyzing tons of data, so there should be no problem in analyzing supplementary data.
How common is self-checkout or self-scanning in your country?
I heard Wal-Mart has self-checkout-lines in every store, is that true?
What are other positive or negative effects of self-scanning for customers and retailers?
Current development: Coop project "passabene" (german) - Swiss retailer "Coop" is going to fit 80 stores with self-scanning. Metro Future Store - Self-Checkout, RFID-tags instead of barcodes. It's still in test-phase in Germany.
Sony Ericsson fits cellphones with a new feature: The volume of the ringtone can adjust to the sound level of the environment. So if you are reading a book in a silent living room the ringtone is more quiet, and on a balcony next to a street the ringtone is louder.