The future is always beginning now ~Mark Strand.

scan as you shop gizmo attached to the handle of a shopping cart

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.

Self-checkout in use at a store
Photo by pin add via Flickr

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.

photo of hand-written sign at a Home Depot reads: We know technology can be frustrating sometimes. If you need a hand please let us know. We will be there as soon as we can to sort it all out.
Photo by slowmonkey via FlickrW

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.

2 thoughts on “The future is always beginning now ~Mark Strand.”

  1. According to a recent survey regarding the use of plastic, phones and cash, showed that cash doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. I still use it, I just don’t carry as much of it as I use to. But for purchases under $100, it’s still my go to choice, unless I’m playing with Apple or Google pay to see how accessible they are.

  2. Oh, self checkouts and payment terminals which are touch screen aren’t accessible! And given that you can only pay for items up to $100 using your phone, some of us get to the checkout counter only to find ourselves seriously screwed! I see a lot of legal action in the not to distant future.

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