Amazon Wants To Make It Way Easier To Buy Things

Buy the cupcake by just picking it up and walking out.

Checkout lines are a pain in the ass and the number one reason I turn on my heel and walk out of Whole Foods when I just want to buy a cookie and an iced tea. Self-checkout machines are only fun if you’re stuck behind someone buying the entire CVS and all you need to do is buy the tampons and get out. The benevolent overlords at Amazon recognize these issues and have presented a solution.

Here is Amazon Go, a new retail model that addresses the pesky issues of long lines and dysfunctional self-checkout machines by essentially eliminating them, making it so that if you need to buy a cupcake, a water and a chicken salad sandwich, all you need to do is pick up those items, put them in your bag and walk out.

The system is being beta-tested in an 1,800-foot convenience store in Seattle now, and will eventually open to the public if all goes well. It’s really as simple as it sounds — you walk into the store, pick something off the shelf, put it in your bag, and leave. Like stealing, but you’re actually paying for it. Here’s a little more information.

Customers supply their payment information before they set foot in the store. Then they have a panopticon of cameras and sensors that literally follow the customer’s every step as she walks around the store. If she takes an item off a shelf, Amazon’s software figures out what the item is and immediately adds it to the customer’s bill. If she puts the item back, the Amazon’s software deletes the charge.

Before you wring your hands and decry the fall of civilization at the hands of Jeff Bezos and his proprietary technology, I don’t know how much this will actually do to disrupt the retail industry. If this beta test goes well, then yeah, this could spread to other stores and lots of people who do stuff like yell at their manager for the PLU code for Fuji apples will be out of a job. But, as my pals at the Billfold pointed out, there are still employees that work these stores. Someone has to take the payment information and someone has to restock the shelves. Someone, I presume, also has to hang around and make sure that you’re not stealing or taking the toothpaste into the bathroom to brush your teeth and putting it back on the shelf when you’re done.

What happens if you’re one of those people that picks up a box of Oreos, carries it around the store with you while you decide and then dumps them in a panic on top of the gum at the checkout aisle? From what I can tell of this video, in order to “erase” something from your cart, you must return it to from whence it came. But maybe the “panopticon of cameras” following your every move, tracking what you do and how you do it will be smart enough to figure out that you’re the kind of person who panics at the last minute and doesn’t buy the cookies will be smart enough to figure that out.

Maybe that panopticon of surveillance equipment will also find a way to store your purchasing preferences and use them in even more accurate targeted ads, plopping whatever the equivalent of a panic-purchase cookie box is in front of your eyes every time you go on Facebook to look at your high school rival’s baby pictures.

Or maybe this is just a nice thing. Convenience! Ease! Buy, buy, buy! The future is here and it is checkout-free!

Do you trust this? I don’t know if I do!

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