Do you envision a future filled with nanotechnology, robots, and faster, smarter computers?
Dreams for this type of future may be slowed to a halt, as groups of concerned citizens resist the increasingly present self-checkout. Fear of economic downturn and job loss ward off shoppers from using such automated tellers.
Canadians Proudly Resist Self-Checkout
A Canadian university, sharing results from a national grocery shopping study, was the first to raise the red flag on mounting consumer worries of the rapidly multiplying self-checkout kiosks.
Of Canadians surveyed in the study, more than 1/4 said they had never used the self-checkout stall, not even for a small purchase at the grocery store. Their motivations for avoiding the machines?
The primary mission of these Canadians is to save cashier jobs.
One northern shopper, Dan Morris, told CBC, “They’re trying to basically herd everyone in, get everyone used to the self-checkouts to continuously cut down on staff”.
Some Canadians have taken additional action against the self-checkouts, starting petitions and sharing memes on social media, to get the word out: “never use a self-checkout – they kill jobs.” (1)
Shopping In America
Federal data shows that store cashier is the second most common job in the U.S., employing about 3.5 million Americans. (2)
Despite the significant number of cashiers nationwide, it is surprisingly not all doom and gloom in the U.S. on the self-checkout front.
In fact, the self-checkout concept is spreading and growing at a rapid pace. Sure there have been setbacks, as seen with Wal-mart’s Scan & Go services, but Stores like Sam’s Club and Amazon Go have already presented a working model for completely cashier-less stores.
A few Americans dislike the prospect of job downturn due to automation, but it has not been as pronounced as in Canada or stopped the momentum of the movement. (3)
Shoppers seem to enjoy the experience at these automated stores, marveling at the technology, and they still see a few humans during their visit. For example, cashier-less stores employee ‘Hosts’ who offer in-store assistance to shoppers and software developers.
Fighting Automation – An Uphill Battle?
The grocery store is not the only place of business modernizing and automating redundant jobs with machines.
Roles like the bank teller and payroll clerk, as per the World Economic Forum, are “expected to become increasingly redundant” over the next four years.
Are the many people staving off self-checkouts fighting ATM use too? (5)
Ultimately, increasing competition with online stores and mounting labor costs (increasing minimum wage) challenge the financial success of nearly all brick-and-mortar stores.
Automatic tellers could keep the doors open longer, and among more grocery businesses in small cities across America, who already work on thin profit margins.
As evidenced by other technological advances of the past, there is a strong reason to believe that more jobs will be created in the same or other sectors as automation increases.
Ultimately, no machine can replace the services provided by one human for another. (1)
By Crystal Phyllis Mcleod, Guest writer