Is 'Big Brother' in charge of shopping?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A shopper walked into a store, grabbed a few items and hurried out the door.

And the store was just fine with that.

The store, in Seattle, is known as Amazon Go and uses cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back.

There’s no need for cash registers and checkout lines since customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file.

The gorilla in the online retailing room, Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion and is trying to find ways to eliminate long checkout lines that customers find annoying.

Amazon’s store hasn’t been flawless in a year of in-house trials, and there’s no certainty it will be expanded to other locations around the country.

For instance, Amazon’s cameras couldn’t always correctly identify shoppers with similar body types, and children created chaos by moving products to incorrect places.

Still, the store’s cameras have been able to distinguish between two very similar items, for instance, and weight sensors in shelves help determine exactly what people take.

Even if we’re unlike to land an Amazon store, McCook area shoppers are getting a taste of new technology with experiences like self-checkout and paying through a smartphone app. And, the local Walmart is ready for a major remodeling project, expected to include a “pickup tower” where online orders will be waiting for customers just inside the door.

Local shoppers can still choose a more traditional experience, of course, but we’re still likely to encounter computerized cash registers and online credit card transactions even at small mom-and-pop stores.

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