WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Amazon Go was opened to the public in January with a concept of “No cashiers, no lines, no registers.”
- Its concept is really convenient but, represents a worrying social transformation.
- The concept of letting technology take over and relying less on teams of human workers are also alarming.
Most people love going to the supermarkets because of the sensual pleasures physical shopping provides—whether it’s at a neighborhood Food Basket, a sprawling Publix, or a vintage Ralph’s.
But shoppers hate lines. So, the newly-opened Amazon Go’s concept is embraced by many. It is a Seattle-based checkout-free store with no lines to the cashier—because there’s no cashier. You “just walk out” with your groceries.
To enter the store, shoppers need to scan the Amazon Go app on the way in. There’s a person standing near the entrance who will greet you, or maybe assist you in the scanning. Get a paper bag and pick up whatever items you want, then go.
But Amazon still bills you, of course, through the app also. Just refresh Amazon Go app a few minutes after you walk out and your receipt will be displayed. You’ll pay using a credit card or a mobile payment process like Apple Pay.
But, there are limited choices because Amazon Go sells only prepackaged items. It targets shoppers who are always on the go, mostly millennials who throng the area.
The store is watching your every move, very intensely. If supermarkets have CCTVs, Amazon Go has wall-to-wall cameras and multiple sensors to track customers, their smartphones, and each item we get and put back through special glyphs printed on the product packaging.
It’s rather small, too. More like a convenience store with a few aisles. Maybe the layout is intentional for easy monitoring of the cameras.
According to Laura Bliss, MapLab author and writer at CityLab, “The format is designed instead for speed, convenience, and cost efficiency, with a technology that does all three.”
However, it eliminated teams of workers by adopting modern technology.
“Amazon insists that the “just walk out” technology wouldn’t have to eliminate the nation’s 3.5 million cashiers if applied at scale,” Bliss wrote. “But with one greeter and one ID checker per store, it’s hard to see how most people working low-skill retail jobs would fit the descriptions for the some of the new types of work Amazon Go would entail, such as software development.”
Amazon Go has an undeniable appeal because it’s cheaper and more convenient. However, it threatens the feeling of human connection, the chance to bump into other people, and social interaction.