Is it possible for Wal-Mart to be trendy?
The ITP populace that oft rails against the big box stores' incursions will say no, but America's biggest retailer is clearly at the forefront of job-eliminating technology.
Sunday I visited a Sam's Club, which is like Wal-Mart for hoarders, and was told I could download an app to my phone, scan merchandise, pay electronically and just walk out.
It's more difficult to walk out of a warehouse with a lifetime supply of Captain Crunch than you might think, but I managed.
Not waiting in line for a cashier makes for a speedy shopping experience, but to the untrained eye it looks like stealing. At the store I visited a woman at the exit glanced at receipts on customer's phones, but I'm pretty sure I could have bowled past her without losing too many Crunch Berries.
The "Scan & Go app" works at all Sam's Club locations, and a similar one works at four Wal-Mart stores, including one in Marietta, according to the Android store.
Efficiency has its downsides.
Did the Fonz really try to "save" Erin Moran before she died? Is Dolly Parton really too sick to visit her "druggie niece?" Since I was unable to flip through the tabloids while waiting in the checkout line I may never know.
The two cashiers at Sam's were friendly, but human interaction is less popular today than facts. They, along with 3.5 million more U.S. cashiers, may soon be out of work.
Amazon, in December, opened a test store in Seattle that has no cash registers at all . Amazon says once the kinks are worked out any brick-and-mortar locations will only need 3 to 10 employees per shift. The public opening of the Amazon store was delayed because massive crowds overloaded the store's sensors, which track shoppers and shoplifters alike.
Somewhere in America, a team of really bright engineers is trying to figure out how to get machines to stock store shelves. Or maybe customers would do it for a coupon? I've seen people get in fist fights over Black Friday deals. Tricking them to organize giant jugs of Tide on a store shelf should be a snap.
Technology will soon make fast food even faster.
Wendy's, once based in Atlanta, says it will replace employees with self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 stores by the end of 2017.
McDonald's plans to let Hamburglars order and pay with their phones this year.
In Boston, hundreds of people lined up recently to test McDonald's "Big Mac ATM." The Fiscal Times said it's the first step in a "People-free" future, but it's really just a fancy Coke machine stuffed with hamburgers.
The robot future is best realized at Eatsa, a restaurant chain founded in San Francisco. Customers use tablets to punch up burrito bowl orders and pick up their food from something that looks like a microwave. They never see the low-paid humans toiling in the kitchen. The food is ready in 60 seconds and costs $7. Not a bad price in San Fran or New York.
When asked how many humans Eatsa employs at its NYC location, a company founder said "The robot won’t let me tell you."
Eliminating human cashiers excites criminals more than CEOs.
Never having to show a photo ID while making a major purchase with someone else's credit card is just what the almost risk-free crime of identity theft needs to really take off.
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