While I check out my items at the grocery store, I can’t help but think about the last time I went through a cashier’s lane. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. She asked how I was. I responded, fine, how are you. And then she launched into the reasons why she shouldn’t be there. It wasn’t her shift. Someone called in sick and she was summoned at the last minute. She was really tired. It was an unusual response. But something along these lines has happened often enough for me to justify controlling my experience. A computer or robot doesn’t get bored and doesn’t complain. More important to companies, it doesn’t require breaks and it doesn’t make its own mistakes.
Many people resist using self checkouts because a) they hate them and b) they believe they’ll save jobs. It didn’t work with ABMs at banks and it won’t work now. Some people want to shame me for going through self checkouts. What’s happening in the marketplace will come with or without my involvement. I’m just accepting that it’s real. Companies will eventually replace cashiers with technology that doesn’t want medical benefits or a vacation. Hoping it won’t happen is like riding in a horse and buggy while eating the dust of cars passing by.
We don’t have to like it. We didn’t like it when automation took over in factories. No one enjoys seeing people put out of work except companies trying to improve their bottom line. Some major retailers are already testing scan-as-you-go technology on their buggies. No lineups. No extra steps. You’re putting stuff in a cart anyway, so you just swipe it past a scanner on the way.
Smaller retailers might end up with a slight advantage for shoppers who choose to resist automation. The human touch will still rule for mom-and-pop shops that can’t afford robots and powerful computers.
Last week, I paid cash for a purchase at a Shopper’s Drug Mart and the cashier told me she hates working with money. “Few people use it anymore, I always seem to run out of change. It’s a pain. I prefer when people use plastic.” I thought to myself, just wait a while honey. You won’t have to worry about it, and I won’t have to be told that the way I’m shopping in this store is a pain.