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Loss of human interaction in the bagging area

For many elderly people who live alone a supermarket is a place where they can have a friendly chat - but with self-service check-outs, there's no time to talk

25 May, 2017 — By John Gulliver

At the checkout in M&S West Hampstead on Tuesday

THEY’RE doing away with people – or staff – at supermarkets.

You have seen the first signs no doubt at the growing lines of self-service checkouts now installed at most supermarkets.

But Amazon have gone one step further. They’re planning to abolish checkouts altogether.

They have just made their intentions clear with the UK Intellectual Property Office – and have also released a video (below) which shows shoppers taking what they want, and then simply walking out with it. They are then billed through cameras and sensors that track their every move.

It makes sense financially for the supermarkets. Machines don’t need wages, holiday or pensions.

In the meantime, M&S’s new store in West Hampstead has gone further than other supermarkets. Their customers can use only self-service check-outs. When I dropped by the store on Tuesday evening I got the impression all the customers were young – and single.

But where were the oldies? Not a sign. I saw an operative helping an elderly man – the only one in the shop – to bag his wares. She told me that few elderly use the shop because it is entirely self-service. I assume they use the other supermarkets in West End Lane but M&S don’t seem to mind the loss of custom.

Apparently, Saga reported a surge of complaints from older people about a loss of “human interaction”. Oddly enough, for many of the elderly who live alone a supermarket is a place where you can have a friendly chat, and break the loneliness of the day. There are also the irritating slip-ups while scanning, though the quality of machines differ in each supermarket chain.

But don’t think Amazon isn’t on its way. It is, I’m sure. I recall the very first self-service shops in the 1960s and the death of so many local retailers. Within 10 years the supermarkets had arrived.

While it is assumed the elderly and the world of hi-tech and the internet don’t mix, that too is changing. Recent analysis shows that 70 per cent of the elderly now use the internet. How long will it take before they feel at home with self-service checkouts?


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