In short, so as long as they allow the chain to justify reducing hours of its part-time employees, it’s probably worth it. “Supermarket retailers operate on extremely thin profit margins, so at the end of the day it can turn out that even after you tabulate all of these many downsides, there is a very small profit advantage that justifies their existence for retailers,” she says.
She also worries about the next wave of automated shopping—a la Amazon Go, which really might actually stand to “work” seamlessly—just at the cost of shoppers and workers subjecting themselves to corporate surveillance on a much wider scale. And going cashless, as Amazon Go mandates, disadvantages poorer customers who might not have credit cards or digital payment accounts. “So some of the clunkiness of automated checkout could, in theory, be solved with better technology,” Mateescu says, “but with so many tradeoffs it’s worth asking where it begins to be a solution in search of a problem.”
And that’s what this thoroughly shitty example of shitty automation boils down to. This is a service that was never intended to serve customers, but rather specifically (though clumsily) designed to cut or trim jobs—as such, it’s little surprise that it serves no one.