Technology was originally intended to make the world a better place. It’s surprising how it’s putting so many people out of work and increasing poverty, unemployment, and depression rates.

It’s a fact that technological advancement is supposed to make human activities easier, but there’s a fine line between making life easier and killing jobs. We’re in the computer age, and computers are literally taking over every facet of human life. This is as harmful as it is beneficial, and it looks like we have no control over the outcomes these technologies bring.

Is it even necessary?

Self-checkout has ruined a lot of lives and families. The technology was invented and patented in 1984 by David Humble, a Florida business executive who founded the company CheckRobot [1]. 35 years later, the technology is still budding and waxing stronger, and the worst of its damage hasn’t been witnessed yet. With these machines, a customer at a store or a mall will be able to process their own purchases and check themselves out. The idea is to limit or eradicate the employment of human cashiers and salespersons at checkout points.

This technology evolved tremendously since 1984, with many other companies and retail giants joining the self-checkout revolution. As of 2016, there were about 240,000 self-checkout machines worldwide, but BBC predicts that there would be about 468,000 by 2021 [2]. Retailers don’t care about the fact that the use of self-checkout will harm the economy, seeing as machines and computers don’t receive salaries, pay taxes or pay into the pension plan.

Walmart made a good decision by discontinuing the service

Commercial giants are heavily supporting this trend. Walmart is the largest employer in the United States. They’ve taken thousands of lives out of poverty and hunger, provided of jobs across the country. Despite the good, Walmart has been around for so long and has faced many adverse conditions in the world of labor. There’s literally no retailer lawsuit that hasn’t been slammed in their faces.

When self-checkout came into Walmart, people initially refused to use them because it meant that a lot of the salespersons would be gone. Before they gave up on self-checkout completely in 2018, here’s what their director of corporate communication said about the initiation of self-checkout: “We look at what options can we provide for the customer. What do they like? What are they responsive to? That’s where we begin the journey. We tested self-checkout in the early 2000s. They responded greatly, we piloted it in the early part of the decade, and now it’s in all of our stores.” he said to Vox [3].

The company had to discontinue the use of all self-checkout machines in their stores. A mobile Scan and Go technology which was operated by their customers was a total mess, considering that shopper theft increased and people didn’t really catch on with the whole concept of weighing and bagging [4].

“In our efforts to minimize friction points, we found that the program created some of its own such as receipt checks, weighted produce, and un-bagged merchandise resulting from using the program,” Walmart said in a released statement. “Additionally, low adoption played a role in the removal of the program.”

Thousands of people are standing with humans and against machines

A story published by the Canadian Broadcasting Company says that 33% of Canadian shoppers are refusing to use self-checkout at stores because “it’ll kill jobs” [5].

“Maybe the little bit we do makes no difference at all,” said Peggy Eburne, an interviewed shopper who refused to process her purchase with the machines. “But we like to stand by what we believe in.”

In my opinion, self-checkout is wickedness. Excluding the fact that the technology still needs major improvements, there’s just something plain wrong about it. People’s means of livelihood being replaced by machines is not a good thought. Retailers complain that the largest proportion of costs come from wage payment, but that’s how it’s always been since the dawn of time. They shouldn’t try to be greedy and retain more profit by ruining people’s lives.

References:

  1. The unpopular rise of self-checkouts. Adriana Hamacher. BBC Future. May 10, 2017.
  2. Should cashiers be machines or humans? Bryan Lufkin. BBC Future. May 13, 2017.
  3. Wouldn’t it be better if self-checkout just died? Kaitlyn Tiffany. Vox. Retrieved from v. October 2, 2018.
  4. RETAIL: Walmart Gives Up On Unpopular Self-Checkout Service. PYMNTS. May 16, 2018.
  5. ‘They kill jobs’: Meet Canadians who refuse to use self-checkout. Sophia Harris. CBC. December 8, 2018.
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