Posts Tagged With: automation

Bar codes: The beginning or the end?

Veiss1. Flickr. June 6, 2009.

Americans value their independence as much as their time.  Self-service check-out at grocery stores attempts to rival the efficiencies of fast food restaurants.  For those who dread the new or the chatty cashier, the parent shopping for a family of ten, or the customer with a pile of coupons, salvation has arrived.  Not only is check-out expedited, but the process is under the shopper’s control.  There’s no negotiating paper or plastic money or bags.  Any worries about missing items are mitigated by the stern, automated voice emanating from somewhere near the coin return.

Bar codes, of course, are key to the success of the customer/cashier.  Without them, shoppers couldn’t qualify for this role.  If only all packages, packaging, and bar code locations were similar.  The 40-pound bag of dog food, the colorful box of raisins, and the plastic bag of carrots each constitute unique challenges to the dignity and efficiency of the self-checker.  The annoyed sighs of waiting shoppers, the strident orders of the automated supervisor, and the absent beeps of the scanner require a focus on bar codes.

Now that there’s an “app” for mobile bank deposits, can an “app” for grocery check-out be far behind?  Imagine that invisible robotic cashier simply demanding payment upon your arrival at the self-check-out lane.  Perhaps, grocers will provide human baggers to further expedite check-out.  Certainly, jobs for human cashiers will be needed.  Already, their work has become more physical and technical due to bar codes.  There’s no more entering the numbers of prices into a cash register or calculating change.  Perhaps, their future is as technicians.  People will be needed to maintain and repair all those self-check-out computers.

How do you prefer to pay for your groceries?  Would you miss your friendly human cashier if grocery check-out became fully automated?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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