When a grocery store is really busy the most irritating thing to see is 20 checkout stations but only six cashiers. Massive lines form behind frazzled employees trying their best to ring up your items quickly yet accurately. Somehow, the self-checkout line always seems to be the fastest option for getting in and out.
It's no secret that technology makes shopping and several other aspects of life more efficient. The only downside is that when robots replace employees, many people are left without jobs. A few major retailers are developing automated machines that will make shopping easier for customers but possibly at the expense of their workers.
Walmart has been working on smart carts and the company was recently granted a patent. The automated carts will be able to roll themselves around the store and approach customers when beckoned. They can also put themselves away when not in use, which replaces the job of a cart pusher. Sensors, cameras, a computer, and a motor near the wheels are what will allow the cart to do these tasks by itself. Check out the picture below that was included in the patent.
This is just the first step, Walmart says their carts could potentially do so much more. They may be able to move larger items, scan products and bring them to customers, check inventory, and take out the trash. This seems to replace the people who unload trucks, the people who stock the shelves, and the people who assist you around the store.
According to the patent, robots could help with staffing issues due to a high turnover rate and a heavy workload during busy times and the holiday season. Yahoo Finance points out they are the perfect employee because they never need time off and never need training because they're programmed knowing what to do. On the other hand, Bloomberg news argues that eliminating greeters and replacing cashiers with self-checkout machines makes it much easier for people to shoplift.
Walmart isn't the only store where you'll start seeing these changes. According to CNBC, Lowe's plans to start using robots (LoweBots) to assist customers with shopping in 11 stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. People will be able to ask the LoweBot where a certain product is or type a search into the robot's touch screen. Then the robot will guide the shopper to the product. It also scans shelves to provide updates on inventory.
All of these efforts are a response to online shopping. Amazon is a huge rival that allows people the comfort and ease of shopping from home or on the go from a mobile app. If you prefer Amazon, make sure you check out these seven Amazon Prime perks.