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Vanishing Cashiers: Are We Seeing The End Of The Customer Service Era?

by Larry Bellehumeur   |  Nov 12, 2018  

There was an IBM commercial, probably close to 2 decades ago now, that foreshadowed the downfall of the cashier.  To watch it, click here.

 

So, the idea of a true “self-checkout”, one where you did not even have to stop at a kiosk, has been floated around for decades.  There were always obstacles to it, namely how to prevent items being taken without being registered.  Like many innovations in the world of automation, Amazon was leading much of the charge.

 

Amazon Go’s stores have famously announced that they will not use cashiers or even self-checkout kiosks, but instead will blanket the stores with cameras and sensors.  While it seems that they are just trying to give the customer the convenience of not having to stop and check out, there is far more at play here.  These sensors/cameras are combined with big data and artificial intelligence software to calculate how to better target consumers.

 

While there are obviously privacy and security concerns here, it begs another question ... does this expedite the demise of the role of cashier?

 

Now, I have publicly stated that most times I am shopping (among the few times I am not using E-Commerce), I try to use the self-checkout lanes.  It is just a personal preference.  Based on the line-ups at many stores, most people still like to go to the cashier, though.

 

It appears that Wal-Mart is joining Amazon in by-passing the whole check-out experience.  While still an experiment, their “Scan and Go” technology is being used in an app that can allow customers to checkout while in the store.  While not quite living up to the IBM commercial, it is starting to go that way.

 

Does this mean my grandkids will never see a cashier?  With over 3M people listing “Cashiers” as jobs in the US (according to the Dept of Labor), it will take a while to see this end.  But, like my fellow Novotech-er, Richard Hobbs, points out ... once I started to pump my own gas, it didn’t take long for that to become normal.  Once people start to accept these technologies, they will be adopted at a breakneck speed.

 

So, maybe my kids will tell my grandkids about how they used to have to line up at a cash register, just like I tell my kids how someone use to pump our gas when I was a kid ...

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