Like it or not, retail embraces self-control and AI technology

In a Sprouts supermarket while waiting in line for a cashier, I see an employee supervising a bank with self-service scanning machines. She stands attentively like a butler with cloth and spray bottle in hand.

A customer scans and bags their own groceries, pays with a card and walks away quietly. The employee then sprays and dries the machine before retiring to allow another customer to check out.

Over several five-minute transactions, no one greets her and she speaks to no one.

This can hit one observer as dignified and efficient and another as nervous; and they could both be right.

As long as I have the opportunity, I prefer the human worker to a machine. Still, I am fully aware that I am taking a stand on melting polaris.

        Wyatt Kastl uses a self-payment kiosk on July 19, 2021 at the Westland Public Library.

Whatever customers think of it, retailers are moving towards non-contact payment technology with no human employee involved. Amazon opened its first cash-free retail store in 2018. Walmart is testing non-self-checkout stores in Texas and in Canada, where “hosts” take place as treasurer.

When some chain stores withdrew from self-control technology early in the century, I felt relief; but the machines have evolved since then and the customers have warmed up to them. Kiosks with self-control shipped in record numbers worldwide during 2020.

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