Amazon has been developing a no-check-out system for retailers…the idea is that the customer just picks up up what he wants, walks out, and automatically gets charged the proper amount. The systems were initially installed at some Amazon Go stores, and there is now one installed at a Whole Foods in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, DC.
I needed to pick up some groceries, and had been curious about how well the system actually works, so stopped into this store last week.
You scan your phone (with the appropriate app installed) when you walk into the store. There are cameras everywhere; they watch what you get and, anything you put back on the shelf. When you’ve picked up everything you want, scan your phone again when walking out (there are numerous parallel stations for doing this) and just walk out. Within an hour or so, you will get a receipt that shows what your bought and what you were charged for it.
I didn’t have a lot of time (the Uighur restaurant across the street was very slow), so didn’t get a much. But I did pick up 3 black plums, 2 bananas, and a steak…being curious about whether the system could really deal with picking an item and then putting it back, I did just this with a can of black beans…took it off with the shelf, took it around in the shopping basket, then came back to the shelf where I found it and returned it there.
The receipt did show up about an hour later, and was correct, including the absence of the black beans from the list.
Interesting question as to why it takes so long to get the receipt. I’m sure there’s a lot of image processing involved, but an hour seems long for a fully automated process. I suspect that there may be human involvement to deal with cases where the automation gets confused.
This system would seem to have quite a few advantages for a retailer…lower labor costs, potentially-improved customer satisfaction (compared with the often-very-irritating self-checkout systems in common use), AND better use of floor space…the typical grocery store requires a nontrivial amount of its space for the checkout lines and stations.
On the other hand, there’s no assistance for those who would like help with bagging. And people without credit cards and phones are out of luck, there have already been some objections from activists on this point.
Has anyone else had any experience with one of these installations, either at the Whole Foods or at one of the Amazon Go stores?