It’s inevitable that robots and artificial intelligence will end up taking a lot of today’s human jobs over the next few decades, but whenever I’m in my local Tesco store, I can’t help but feel I’m hurrying the process on a little.

You see, I always opt for the self-service machines, even if there’s a staff member standing at the counter, waiting to serve me. Sure, these machines aren’t ‘intelligent’ but they’re replacing humans with a computerised process that some people (including me) prefer. 

Today, as I scanned my first item, I glanced at the man in the uniform waiting to serve the next person who wanted some human contact (or who wanted to buy some cigarettes – another thing on their way out). I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry that I was happily doing his job for him, helping to prod his employment to an end, and Tesco an inch closer to a fully-automated future.

Right now, the staff in my local store (it’s a small one) spend more time stocking the shelves than serving customers. No doubt it won’t be too long before there’s no need for them to do that, either.

“Sorry mate, I’m choosing the machine over you,” is something we’ll all be thinking and saying a lot more in the coming years.

3 Comments

  • But you might not be in the majority there!

    I always choose the manned till. Maybe because I’m lazy and prefer someone else to scan all my shopping? But mainly because there’s always one item that doesn’t scan, the weight doesn’t match up or requires a staff person to swipe.

    If the technology doesn’t work you need a human to fix it. Same with those automated customer service phone lines that don’t understand what you say, or the list of menu items that doesn’t offer what you want.

  • Interesting one Martyn! I am the same. In fact – a lot of us are. In my local Tesco Express, the queue for self-serve is sometimes longer than the staffed one!

    I put it down to a few reasons.

    1 – Going shopping is no longer (or should be) a social experience. Sometimes (scrap that – every time) you don’t want to make small talk. Not because you are rude or anti-social, but you know the banter of “And how are you today?” is forced and just a routine of a customer service document. You then have to engage with the “I’m fine thanks….. urm… and how are you?” Both parties are not really interested in the answer so it’s a process you don’t want to or have to go through. Solution – bring back rude staff!

    2 – Perhaps you have just woken up. You have thrown on some clothes from the bedroom floor. You look like a scarecrow. You enter Tescos with the aim of having the least amount of eyeballs seeing this monstrosity. A self-serve machine won’t be thinking “Struth! you stink – what;s happened to you?!?”. Instead it will just gently suggest that you “simply remove the embarrassing item you have just bought and try again”.

    3 – Credit worry – Oh I wish these machines where around when I was a student. Instead of buying a load of food (scrap that – booze, fags and Pot Noodle) and a cashier announcing to the entire world your card has been declined and you then have to say “Can you keep hold of those items? – I am really confused as there is definitely money in my account. Is there a cash machine around here? Great – I will be back to pay for that later” and then never return again, you can simply put your card in, get declined, and then carefully slunk off back home to call the bank to see if you can get that overdraft increased by the exact bill amount.

    4 – Often it is not a choice. In my local Express, it was the exception to the rule that someone was serving. When I used to smoke it would be a mission to find someone to get me a packet (that I would put through the machine of course). It has become the most natural way of buying groceries – like it’s weird now that people used to fill our cars with petrol and soon it will be the same.

    I welcome it – but equally I get really fed up if there are no staff around (the security guard at my local needs a pay rise – he is always fixing self serve machines!)

  • Tyvek is interesting stuff. I was mankig a bag out of it until my supplier sold all their stock and refused to re-stock. You can sew it, so it is interesting that they chose to glue it together. Cloth House (Berwick St.) sells Tyvek if you fancy having a go yourself, although last time I checked it was all quite thin (it comes in many different weights and thicknesses)

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