Emeryville Pak ‘N Save, Target Closing Self Checkouts as Prop 47 Battle Looms

4 mins read

The convenience and speed of shelf checkout may slowly be coming to an end in Emeryville and other urban cities. Regular customers of both Target and Pak ’N Save have pointed out the recent removal or closure of the automated kiosks at these locations over the past few weeks.

The technology began as a way to save customers’ time and has become popular with busy shoppers looking to buy a few items and zip in and out of the store.

Lately though, the technology has been abused and plagued by theft as well as other issues with customer satisfaction.

The area at the Emeryville Pak ‘N Save that previously accommodated self checkout.

While there are other reasons behind this change, frequent theft seems to be the primary driver of the sudden shift. Many shoppers of these establishments have commented on personally witnessing a shoplifting incident supporting this notion (including California Governor Gavin Newsom).

Some Emeryville Target customers indicated that self checkout was initially restricted to peak hours but eventually shuttered completely. The signs posted say “currently closed” and the kiosks have yet to be dismantled but employees we spoke with said they were likely ‘gone for good.’

Target staff we spoke with said that theft at the store persists despite these closures but they are hamstrung with directly engaging shoplifters. Some claim that this “permissiveness” has emboldened habitual thieves and reduced accountability. Retailers are also reporting ‘more aggressive’ shoplifters putting employees at increased risk.

The Emeryville Target has armed guards in pseudo-military fatigues posted up in the entrance of the store to greet customers and get involved should things escalate with an accused shoplifter. Some customers have expressed that this makes them feel uneasy as they enter the store to shop.

Armed security guards greet customers at the Emeryville/Oakland Target that some have likened to “paramilitary.”

Is Home Depot Next?

Meanwhile, self checkout at the Emeryville Home Depot continues although store employees we spoke with admitted that theft was a big problem at the store.

Some Home Depot stores in other regions have begun closing self checkout according to a subreddit reserved for store associates. The reasons described are shrink and “scanner skipping” where customers intentionally fail to scan items prior to bagging them (the practice has become so commonplace that there’s an entire vocabulary behind it).

Self Checkout at the Emeryville Home Depot remains … for now.

Some customers, particularly seniors and the visually impaired, have complained about the complexity of self checkout. Others have complained about the lack of cash as a payment option and many still prefer the interaction with store employees.

Other customers have cheered their removal expressing concern over potential loss of these entry level jobs. In may cases, cashiers that are replaced by kiosks are reallocated to other roles including being on the floor to directly help customers (including helping customers retrieve items behind locked cases).

Slower checkout in tandem with the inconvenience of retrieving items behind these locked cases have frustrated shoppers with some opting to drive to other locations despite the added effort.

Many Target patrons have expressed annoyance with common items being locked behind cases.

Some customers have noted that the drive-up and pickup services through the Target app are more efficient anyway. The impact of the removal of self checkout could lead to longer wait times and could expedite adoption of this way of shopping that while convenient, requires more careful planning.

Some sources have indicated that retailers are working on fortifying self checkout technology with AI to better deter theft and they could eventually return.

Prop 47 Reform Looming?

Reasons for property crime increases in our state including shoplifting are frequently blamed on Proposition 47. Placed on the Ballot as “The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act” (a title approved by then CA Attorney General and current VP Kamala Harris), the measure was passed by voters almost a decade ago.

Businesses and law enforcement warned that the law would lead to a surge in theft as it effectively allowed offenders to repeatedly steal under the $950 threshold without being charged with a felony or the threat of jail time.

Prop 47 has also been connected to a surge in fentanyl deaths as the law decriminalizing the possession of most drugs and removed mandatory substance-abuse treatment. Other studies have refuted any connection between decriminalization and higher overdose rates (Editor’s Note: This sentence added after initial publication.).

Resentment over Prop 47 has been brewing for years and there have been many efforts to amend or repeal the law. The latest effort is a ballot initiative that is in the process of being certified by the Secretary of State.

The Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act, being put forth by a bipartisan coalition named California for Safer Communities, has submitted 910,000 signatures for certification on the November ballot. Only 547K valid signatures are needed making its qualification likely. Approval by voters would add an enhanced penalty for repeat thieves and reclassify the possession of fentanyl as a felony. The initiative has not only gained the support of law enforcement and businesses, but moderate Mayors including SF’s London Breed and San Jose’s Matt Mahan.

6/12 update: This ballot initiative has officially been certified by SOS Shirley Weber and is eligible for the November 5 General Election.

Now, with Prop 47 reform gaining support from California’s voters, Democratic lawmakers are finally conceding flaws with the law and seem ready to act. Legislators have reportedly been gathering to pass a package of public safety legislation that would ”shield” Prop 47 from voters. Supporters of the ballot initiative are calling these efforts a “poison pill” that could override the will of voters.

Sacramento-based KCRA’s Ashley Zavala has been among the few reporters to aggressively pursue covering these efforts and expose the ‘behind the scenes’ negotiations of lawmakers.

Opponents of reform to the law say undoing it will lead to “mass incarceration” and repopulation of our costly jail and prison system. Opponents have also claimed that the issue with increased property crime is not explicitly Prop 47’s fault but the lack of enforcement of existing laws.

Other detractors of reform efforts have insisted that crime is “still at historic lows” but people’s perception of crime levels is being influenced by social media.

Some of the money saved in spending on prisons is allocated to be reinvested in prevention and support programs.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

1 Comment

  1. The Emeryville Target is super ratchet. The better move is driving a few miles to the Albany location.

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