Society / Technology

Robot, You’re Fired

If you’re a robot working as a cashier, the trend detailed in this Forbes article must be discouraging:

According to a recent Food Marketing Institute study, fewer people are using self-checkouts at the grocery store. They accounted for 22% of all supermarket transactions in 2007, but have since declined to 16% of transactions in 2010. The same study noted that customers were more satisfied with human-run checkout lanes.

This blog is certain to spend a lot of time examining the implications of increasingly ubiquitous automation – but in this case, the trend appears to be going in the other direction.

Hat tip to Paul Raven over at Futurismic.

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3 thoughts on “Robot, You’re Fired

  1. Interesting point. Any indication as to why? Is it that the technology just isn’t that user friendly? Is there a psychological push toward cashiers? I wonder what people in this sector are looking to change about their self checkout systems.

    It’s strange that I like the idea of phasing out self checkout in favor of cashiers. It stimulates jobs and provides a beneficial human interaction in society when its so easy not to interact with those around us. The strangeness stems from the fact that I typically use the self check out, though this is likely due to the line being shorter these days.

    • Thanks for commenting! To your question, the study doesn’t really suggest a reason. Paul Raven, whom I link to above, theorizes that people simply prefer human interaction. I’m a bit more cynical, though: I think automated cashiers are becoming less popular because they’re not actually automating anything – they’re simply offloading the cashier’s work onto the customer – and people have caught on to that (that said, I too use the self-checkout all the time).

      Personally, I also prefer buying from a human rather than a robot, especially if it’s keeping that human employed. What I really want is for RFID chips and digital wallets to advance to the point where I can just walk out of the store with my stuff and have it all automatically deducted from my checking account… but that’s a subject for another post.

  2. We humans are social beings. I choose to interact with people directly whenever possible so I am definitely part of the group moving away from robot-provided self-service. Does seem that robots are providing precision in many manufacturing settings.

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