Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"End of the checkout line: the looming crisis for American cashiers"

Following on yesterday's "A Vision of the Amazon/Whole Foods Future (AMZN)".

From The Guardian

Donald Trump is fixated on a vision of masculine, blue-collar employment. But the retail sector has long had a far greater impact on American employment – and checkout-line technology is putting it at risk
The day before a fully automated grocery store opened its doors in 1939, the inventor Clarence Saunders took out a full page advertisement in the Memphis Press-Scimitar warning “old duds” with “cobwebby brains” to keep away. The Keedoozle, with its glass cases of merchandise and high-tech system of circuitry and conveyer belts, was cutting edge for the era and only those “of spirit, of understanding” should dare enter.

Inside the gleaming Tennessee store, shoppers inserted a key into a slot below their chosen items, producing a ticker tape list that, when fed into a machine, sent the goods traveling down a conveyer belt and into the hands of the customer. “People could just get what they want – boom, it comes out – and move on,” recalled Jim Riot, 75, who visited the store as a child. “It felt like it was The Jetsons.”

Despite Saunders’s best efforts, the Keedoozle’s circuits frequently failed and the store closed for good by 1949.

But 72 years after he attempted to patent his idea, advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies are making the dream of a worker-free store a reality. And American cashiers may soon be checking out.

A recent analysis by Cornerstone Capital Group suggests that 7.5m retail jobs – the most common type of job in the country – are at “high risk of computerization”, with the 3.5m cashiers likely to be particularly hard hit. 

Another report, by McKinsey, suggests that a new generation of high tech grocery stores that automatically charge customers for the goods they take – no check-out required – and use robots for inventory and stocking could reduce the number of labor hours needed by nearly two-thirds. It all translates into millions of Americans’ jobs under threat.

Alfredo Duran, a 37-year-old New Yorker, has been staring down that threat. He began his retail career at the Gap, taking part in that quintessential American rite of passage: getting a summer job in high school. Twenty-one years later – after a career that took him from fast fashion chains to department stores to high-end boutiques and saw him climb the ladder from cashier to visual merchandiser to store manager – he’s looking for a way out.

“Retail used to be a career,” Duran said. “You actually sat with your store manager and told them, ‘This is where I see myself in five years.’ No one thinks like that anymore. It’s just a warm body who can pick up the clothes that were thrown on the floor.”...MORE
 Most recently on cashiers:
June 23, 2017
Signposts: McDonald's hits all-time high as Wall Street cheers replacement of cashiers with kiosks (MCD)
It's all good, right?
The cashiers will simply retrain as roboticists and robotics technicians.
Or so the technocrats tell me....
... Just one question for the technocrats, "Why were the cashiers cashiers in the first place?"

Which was foreshadowed by August 2014's "Cashiers Replaced By Machines at McDonalds (MCD)":
This is a test, this is only a test.
If this had been an actual robot uprising against minimum wage workers you would have been instructed where to apply for unemployment compensation....
The robots are moving slower than I thought they would but they are indeed making inroads.
If interested see also David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) in:
on Eliminating the Human.