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Amazon Go, Cashiers Gone

Tim Evanson on Flickr

As technology gets smarter and more advanced, we may see it take over some jobs that humans once did. We’ve seen this several times in history, where a job performed by humans was taken over by machines and computers who can do it a lot faster.

Sometimes this change isn’t very obvious. Sometimes a job you haven’t really heard of becomes automated and computers do it instead. However, sometimes these jobs have a huge effect on our daily lives.

For example, when you buy something from a shop, you’ve likely seen store workers around. Even if you use a self-service machine, there’s someone likely standing around to ensure everything works okay. But what if a shop didn’t need any workers whatsoever?

This idea may sound really weird at first. After all, if there were no cashiers and no people watching over the self-service machine, how do things get bought?

Well, people are figuring that out right now. Amazon, for example, are already trying this with their own physical stores. There are a handful of grocery stores called Amazon Go which allow people to buy things without a cashier.

How does it work? The store takes note of what people are currently carrying. It does this through cameras and sensors on the shelves that register when someone takes an item and puts it in their basket.

Then, when the store detects the shopper has walked out the store, it charges the person’s bank account that they set up before they entered. This removes the need for cashiers or self-service machines — just take what you want, walk out, and Amazon handles the rest.

Sounds great, right? Well, it’s not all fun and games. For example, the people who work as cashiers likely won’t appreciate the change. They need jobs like this to help pay the bills, and if technology replaces them, they may be out of a career.

It also raises some privacy concerns, too. When you buy something with cash at a cashier, the company doesn’t collect a lot of information about you. But when you set up an account like with Amazon Go and use it to pay for your goods, the company gets to know who you are, what you bought, and how much you spent. This information is valuable to advertisers who can use the data to help make personalised ads.

So are cashierless stores the best outcome? It’s hard to say. However, if stores like Amazon Go are popular, we may see the humble retail job vanish in the space of a few decades!

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