Nice Tech, Amazon -- What About Us Humans?

Can you have a supermarket without the checkout? Amazon certainly thinks so, and it has unveiled a store in Seattle where so far, staff are shopping for pre-packed goods and ready meals with just an app and a pair of hands.

Now, to express an interest up front. Amazon is the brand I probably shop with more than any other but also dislike more than any other, in a way that I have reserved for huge companies that are rumoured to treat staff badly and use clever accountants to make sure mega profits are taxed at super low rates. So any idea from a brand that is permanently in the headlines for rumoured questionable treatment of their warehouse staff will fall flat with me if it's about reducing the number of people that supermarkets need to employ. Hey, investors, they might as well shout, we've worked out a way of dodging loads of costs -- and now we have even found a way to build a supermarket without the need for people on cash registers.

I just wonder whether Amazon gets what humans are like. In real life, out in the wild. Online, we're very focussed on getting the shopping done and just want a way of clicking to get our stuff delivered. Nobody does a better job at this than Amazon. However, in real life, how's all this tech going to work? I get it in the promo video. Amazon's app is fired up when you enter the store and then items are added as you pick them up as well as deleted from your "trolley" as you put them back if you change your mind. For convenience, it can't be beaten. You stroll in, pick up dinner and a drink and walk out. The bill is tallied up and your'e informed what you've been charged with assurance and the e-receipt is on its way.

There are just a few human things in the way. For starters, we're just apes in suits. We've moved beyond delousing one another with our fingertips, and eating any captured fleas, but we still like contact. Shopping is a social thing. Take away the staff and part of the experience is diminished. We often shop as families, so how would the store deal with one of the kids taking back that pack of doughnuts when mum or dad says "no?" If one of the kids or the other half of a couple walks to the other end of the store to pick up, say, cereal, how does that get added to the shopping basket that's still near the entrance picking up fruit and vegetables?

Presumably a lot of this technology is working through IoT, so there are sensors communicating with one another, telling the app what has been removed from the shelf. But how on earth would you do this for the aforementioned fruit and vegetable aisle where a store is selling multiple, small, loose items? 

We're also quite cheeky little blighters, us humans. I would love to know how the app prevents people just going in and taking stuff? Or even taking a full item and replacing with an empty one. You can tell I'm no criminal mastermind, but a shop where you get to walk in, grab stuff and walk out just seems to be asking for theft levels to shoot through the roof, doesn't it? OK, so that's how theft works anyway -- people grab and walk out regardless of apps and technology, so any store is susceptible. I just have a feeling that by encouraging this as a way to shop, retailers will rue a rise in "shrinkage" -- a retail euphemism for theft. If walking out with produce in your hands is encouraged, as per the promo video, a thief would have a very easy excuse that they forget to fire up the app or the phone running it must have just switched itself off.

If I were rushing to catch a plane or train, on my own, this tech would be an amazing time-saver. The rest of the time? Sorry, Amazon, I just don't get it because I don't think it gets me.

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