Image credit: Amazon
Amazon has already made life rough for traditional brick-and-mortar stores with its wildly popular (and powerful) digital marketplace, so it may come as a surprise that Amazon just opened (opens in new tab) a brick-and-mortar grocery store of its own called Amazon Go.
You can find the 1,800 square-foot store in Amazon's home turf of downtown Seattle, but what you won't find are any check-out lines or human cashiers. Instead, aside from a few humans who hang around to keep the place stocked, it's all fully automated.
All you need is a special app for Amazon Go, which registers you as you walk in, much as turnstile monitors read your tickets at a subway station. You then grab all of your items and simply walk out.
Cameras inside the shelves and throughout the store register which items you've picked up and add them to your virtual cart, and the system apparently works so well that you can put an item back on your shelf and it will register as leaving your virtual cart.
The New York Times (opens in new tab) reports that the system also does a good job of thwarting shoplifting, such as when it noticed that the reporter tried to hide an item by wrapping a shopping bag around it. As far as the bags themselves go, you're expected to bring your own – no shopping carts or baskets exist in Amazon Go, either.
The concept has been in the testing phase for a while now, and we first covered it back toward the end of 2016. Amazon says it currently has no plans to implement the system in Whole Foods, which Amazon bought to much fanfare last year.
Maybe too convenient?
Amazon also downplayed the devastating effect a wide adoption of this shift might play on cashier employment, pointing to the human cooks and stockers that are (still) needed to run the place.
As the Times notes, the US Department of Labor reported (opens in new tab) in 2016 that 3.5 million Americans held cashier jobs in May of 2016, and 900,000 of those were employed in grocery stores.
In many smaller towns, cashier positions are often among the only reliable jobs. Amazon's statement also leaves out that stocker and food preparation jobs already exist alongside cashier jobs in many traditional stores already.