Why Automation Fails

May 02, 2023

I have been working my way through the show Superstore and was amused to see the episode where the employees were going to lose their jobs to hand scanners given to consumers. Despite warnings from experts that robots will steal jobs, retail remains stubbornly resistant to automation.

Why It Matters

If you can automate retail stores, then you save consumers time and reduce the cost to operate the store. Jobs might be lost in retail, but it also makes stores more economically viable.

What Has Been Tried So Far

  • Amazon Go lets you login with your Amazon account and uses cameras to track your purchases to charge you when you leave.
  • The Apple Store App lets you self-checkout at an Apple Store from your phone.
  • Those standard self-checkouts you see at CVS and Target among other stores.

The Problems

  • Self-checkouts lead to increased shoplifting.
  • In practice self-checkouts frequently require interventions by employees.
  • Many customers struggle to use the self-checkout, especially when ringing up produce or other non-UPC labeled items.
  • The lack of a bagger slows down the transaction at the register.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.