Remote cashiers – Kommersant FM

Remote cashiers – Kommersant FM


Kommersant FM columnist Alexander Levi talks about why Amazon is abandoning cashierless payments in grocery stores.

Amazon has decided to phase out grocery stores with cashierless Just Walk Out technology. The essence of the latter comes down to the use of cameras and sensors that automatically track the goods with which people leave the store. The idea promises not only to save on staff, but also to avoid queues at the exit.

Amazon’s development was first introduced almost ten years ago – in 2016. Back then, this was certainly an impressive and bold innovation, especially for the grocery shopping industry. But one can only fantasize about the ideal operation of the service. Like any technological innovation, Just Walk Out required adjustments. Firstly, a system consisting of scanners and video cameras in each store is an expensive pleasure. In addition, customers often received their receipts several hours after their purchases. Typically, this complexity was associated with cross-checking sales, which Amazon employees performed manually using video recordings.

And it was this part of the project that turned out to be the most sensitive. What was designed and on the façade looked like a technological future, behind the scenes there were over a thousand people hired in India who were engaged in reconciliation. In itself, backing up with human resources is not a shame, especially at the start of an ambitious project. One could even think of it as a temporary hybrid model for a smooth transition from man to machine. It’s as if they didn’t get rid of the cashiers right away, but moved their workplace from the cash registers to the computer monitors.

True, Amazon’s planned human resource load should have been no more than 50 cases per 1000 sales. In other words, less than 5% of purchases had to be manually double-checked. In fact, according to The Information, it reached 700 incidents per 1,000 checks. Amazon called this number inaccurate, but did not report the correct figure, in its own opinion.

Even if this is 500 cases, this is an order of magnitude higher than expected and will require an audit of every second sale. Is technology needed in this case? Will it save company resources? Judging by the decision of the authors of the project, the answer in both cases is negative. At the same time, the company plans to keep Just Walk Out in several Fresh stores in the UK, as well as in select Amazon Go locations at baseball parks in the US.


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