Amazon Go - the future of retail?


Personally, I see it as a positive, life-affirming thing. Why do something a robot could do? Human time and labor is too valuable for that.


While I agree that putting retail workers out of work and throwing them into the unemployment pool would be bad, I don’t think that has to happen. Maybe when large swathes (swatches!) of jobs start getting replaced by automation we can talk about basic living wages and things like that.

Of course, I won’t be alive at that point because it’ll either be 200 years in the future or I’ll have burned up in the class riots. But I still think that’s the way we need to go.


A real problem with this is that it might not actually be an improvement. They sell these things as being more efficient but often it’s just offloading the cost on to the customer. Notice that if you don’t put the item back exactly, you pay for it.


Then it will fail. Consumers want less time and hassle.

I’m not quite sure why they’re bothering with this. A decade from now, I’d rather have groceries delivered to my door. Maybe it’s geared toward food hobbyists that want to spend their time shopping for recreation.


You know those self checkout things? I hate those. Every time I use one, the damn thing ends up fucked up because it is mis-registering the weight of some item in my bag, or some other goofy error, so it ends up blocking me from adding more, and then I have to wait for a checker to come over and enter a code so I can’t get back to the task at hand. I don’t anticipate a mega-version of that is going to fare much better.

Waiting in line at the grocery store is like three or four minutes. I spend the time scanning the crappy magazines. Then, I get rewarded with a nice bit of “How’s your day going” or “What do you think of this [misc item]”.

As a grumpy old man, I give this new-fangled thing a hearty “fuck this”.


And if there enough of you throwbacks then someone will continue to offer you the antique, more expensive human checkout experience you crave. Just like you can still go to a store and buy a book or a CD/DVD. I don’t understand why anyone still does that, but they do, so yay capitalism.

The idea that we might have simply run out of new things for humans to do with their time is ludicrous. It’s not like we haven’t seen big shifts in employment before. Remember when there used to be gigantic factories in the US where tens of thousands of people worked? I remember, because they’re all condos and food plazas here in Atlanta now. I’m sure back when that all changed people were suggesting that we’d have legions of people who just would not find jobs anymore.

And yet unemployment is still under 5% and we haven’t seen a mass uprising yet. Of course there are people hurt in the transition, but humans are smart, we will find a way to put people to work.


If you don’t count half the country voting for Trump on the basis that he’d bring those jobs back, sure.


Theoretically, we don’t want people languishing in what are, in almost all cases, dreadful dead-end jobs like retail, where there’s no future and no real use of human capacity (in most cases, leaving aside the sort of concierge-level retail stuff). Theoretically, replacing this type of McJob with full automation would release human capital for real work that takes advantage of what humans do best. Theoretically, full automation can lead to a society which is so productive that people are free to create, dream, express themselves, etc.

Theoretically. There are, ahem, a few obstacles to overcome. One of them is our strange obsession, at least in the USA, with the idea that it’s somehow wrong, immoral, and corrupting to not toil in tedium and spend the bulk of our lives doing stuff we hate. The idea that society, via the government or some other collective expression of will, should actually harness the productive capacity of the community to free people from tedium and to create prosperity as a matter of right rather than a matter of quid pro quo is seen as not just wishful thinking, but positively wrong. I suspect that part of this is just pragmatism, as so far we’ve not been able to get far beyond the current paradigm, but I really believe part of it is instilled by the folks who benefit from a captive polity that is slaved to their paychecks, which can be manipulated at will by the fear of job loss or the enticement of a few more coins, and which is so preoccupied with making ends meet that it can’t or won’t upset the apple cart for the people who are benefiting the most.

After all, how much less satisfying would it be to be wealthy and powerful if everyone was just like you? Horrors!



I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought of that.


They have this in a few convenience stores in Beijing already - although the checkout is like a self service kiosk already common, but without the need to swipe items across a scanner, only your phone’s QR code. It seems to rely on RFID and full time security (replacing a full time clerk).

I’m skeptical it would scale well - it’s current form caters to the tech savvy youth. I think a full size grocery store with the average shopper would lead to chaos at checkout as people bumbled through the QR code issues.

I think this will eventually dominate convenience stores, but grocery stores will be replaced by home delivery. We get all our fruit delivered, for example, and I’d happily do the same with other groceries if there was a decent service for it.


Love the idea, hate the numbers when you try to meet with reality. This isn’t P&R so I’ll keep my comments restricted, but a thread there on UBI would be pretty interesting to read/participate in.


The worst part of a grocery store is standing in line with twenty items behind someone who is about to be snowed in for the winter and the other line has a flashing light at the register. I’d be happy if the cart just scanned items as they went int but I suppose we have to start with one sandwich at a time.


What I hate is standing behind the people who wait until the checker is done and they see the total before pulling out of the checkbook and starting to write a check very slowly.

And then there was the family I was behind who purchased their groceries and then decided they wanted to buy a book of stamps so they had an another separate transaction for the fun exclamation


Every time I see a checkbook come out, I have to double check what year it is. I bought a book of stamps a few weeks ago, I assume it will last as long as the last one did, about two years.

Maybe it will be a little like gas stations, full service and I want the hell out of here lines.

I’m picturing more then a few shoplifting issues with this though.How will I know if it didn’t work? Is it going to be like one of those security things that just go off over and over again for the unlucky few?


Retail isn’t so bad for some people. It can include a lot of customer contact, which is human interaction, and it gives the employee an opportunity to help someone. This can be rewarding. One of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve had was managing a small bookstore when I was young. I got to know the regular customers and enjoyed putting aside books I thought they might like and engaging with them when they came in. I liked shelving the books. I liked doing my drawer count at the end of the night and having it either be exact or a few pennies off. It just didn’t pay so I moved on.

Likewise, coding can probably feel like drudgery to some people after they had a few years of it.

Work can provide satisfaction just in a sense of accomplishment, of feeling like you are providing a needed service. I wouldn’t sell any job short. The problem is making these jobs provide a living wage.


Oh, yeah, I was exaggerating a bit there, though I did mention what I call concierge type retail jobs, where the purpose is to interact with customers and provide an experience as well as just sell stuff. This can include bookstores, record stores, etc. where value-added comes from interactions. But let’s face it, these aren’t the norm, I don’t believe. And in general, retail, as we know it in the USA, is mostly a job people take because they have to, not because they want to.

As for a living wage, the fundamental problem is that retail won’t pay well because for most retail jobs, literally a robot can do it–and will be doing it. There’s no way to organically have most retail jobs generate livable salaries (that is, salaries that are livable because the skills necessary to do the job require that you pay someone a decent amount); you have to artificially force higher wages. Retail establishments that aren’t small businesses run by people who genuinely like interacting with customers, or which depend on actual human to human conversation, have zero incentive to pay retail help well. They have every incentive to automate it or lowball it. Hence, I tend think we should encourage the death of retail jobs and replace them with something better. But, as noted, it’s not that easy to do.


A friend of mine’s wife does all her grocery shopping via Amazon Prime Now. She sits at the computer on Sunday morning, makes her picks, and its delivered in about two hours.


That’s pretty much what we do with fruit, and what I’d like to do with the rest. For whatever reason there isn’t a good consolidated online grocery store here yet - you can buy it all ,but from many different vendors which for me pushes it slightly above the hassle of going to the store.

I know some people enjoy the visceral feel of shopping, especially for produce, but not me. I’d rather spend more time in the kitchen making the meal than in the store choosing the ingredients, and barring that just more free time in general.


I’m so jealous. My sister asked me now that is owned by Wal-mart if I would continue ordering from them like I was before. I told her before was like a couple bottles of laundry detergent and a random canned goods. I doubt Wal-mart was going to change that much. She said she loved getting her cheese from them, as in real-life refrigerated cheese.

Neither Amazon Prime Now, or even Safeway offer any sort of fresh foods to this area.