That number wasn’t very well enforced to begin with.
Kroger spokeswoman Rachel Hurst told the Detroit Free Press that it was always more a “guideline … We don't want to turn you down for having 16 items instead of 15.”
Another Michigan grocery chain, SpartanNash, has also eliminated the signage.
Instead the company has no limit for its “self check out” lanes.
Canadian retail analyst Ed Strapagiel said this seems more common in Canada as well.
“Self-checkout appears to be more prevalent, in part as a substitute for a conventional express checkout,” he said.
“In fact, Metro supermarkets call their setup "Express Yourself."
Strapagiel said enforcing the stringent rule has always been a “no-win situation” for retailers.
“15 items or less" always did mean (up to) ‘about 15 items,’" he said.
“Nobody was going to go to war if someone inadvertently or even intentionally had 16 or 17 items.”
He said the best way for cashiers to make sure customers don’t take too much advantage of the system is to “look down the line, see if there's anyone who is obviously over the limit, and immediately direct them to another checkout.
“Better and bolder signage might also help.”
Sobeys’s spokeswoman Vicki Leung said her companies’ banners offer “several express options” for customers.
“Sobeys and Foodland stores in Ontario have "16 or less", "12 or less" and "8 or less" express checkout lanes, and FreshCo stores have "16 or less and "8 items or less" express checkout lanes, depending on the size and needs of the community,” she said.
Otherwise, “we do not intend to add ‘approximately’ to our signage.”
But US food marketing professor Emil Moscato said ending the explicit limit isn’t just a nod to shopper convenience, it also helps the stores’ bottom line.
“If you are limiting yourself to 15, that means the 16th or 17th item, you're not buying that on purpose,” she said.
“Supermarkets aren't happy with that.”