All Stock, No Staff

How do you raise the profit margins of the traditional convenience store? Simple – get rid of the need for employees. Get & Go Express has done exactly that, by placing all their products in vending machines, which has the knock-on effect of reducing the amount of floorspace the outlet needs – the reduced overheads counteract the inability to stock products that would require age verification by staff. Market forces being what they are, we’re sure to see a rise in automated retail, but what effect will that have on unemployment figures?

4 thoughts on “All Stock, No Staff”

  1. Interesting and inevitable.

    But consider that the clerks won’t be laid off wholesale but over a period of (I’m guessing) 10-15 yeears as the idea shakes out. And there will still be people around running the store, they just don’t need to be there.

    Also increased jobs for the folks who restock. A number of stores have other folks come in and do the restocking already, which explains why the people running the stores don’t know if they have X in stock.

  2. Been there, done that.

    If the business model didn’t work in 1991, will it work now?

    There’s a lot to be said for doing this – from the business end – but I suspect customers will always prefer a smiling face.

  3. The implications are spectacular. I can see McDonalds becoming automated, with an actual increase in product quality, within less than a decade.

    WHAM – that means several million people unemployed. Supermarkets will be next. The effects will be demograhic, generational and destabilizing.

    There will be NO other alternative than start implementing a basic income. Ofcourse the US will do that last, at their detriment.

    This effect will also trickle down to thirdworld “low wage” countries and effect employment there, but at decade or two later.

    By 2050, if other even more spectacular things haven’t happened by then, most people in the world will be unable to find a job. Machines will do the vast majority of currently existing jobs easier, cheaper, better and 24/7.

    Whether or not this will reduce us all to plebeian paupers will depend on how democratically aware we are.

    Once it starts happening people better start voting with foresight.

  4. If the business model didn’t work in 1991, will it work now?

    The linked article doesn’t say anything about 1991 – can you explain?

    An automat was a sit-down cafateria – these are stand-alone kiosks. Drive up, get what you want, drive away. There is no inside at all.

    Some reasons why these would be successful

    * Cost – the owner will be able to undercut the competition for anything a manned c-store can offer, unless it must involve a human to process the transaction.

    I prefer to go in to McDonalds for example, even for a take-out meal. I can see if McDs offered a discount on food at the drive in window that it would be more attractive.

    * We’re all used to the idea of transactions with a machine, more so than in 1991.

    WHAM – that means several million people unemployed. Supermarkets will be next. The effects will be demograhic, generational and destabilizing.

    I don’t know that it will be destabilizing. The effects will be gradual – there will be a shift, sure, but it won’t happen overnight. As well, while millions of jobs will go away how many jobs will be created servicing the machines and the kiosks?

    The type of jobs created are interesting. The automation you’re talking about will zap millions (ah but how many millions – I don’t have numbers to hand) of entry-level or dead-end jobs. The jobs created require a modest amount of skill but can be readily learned. I don’t think it’s really much more difficult in abstract than running a till or clerking at a store, but I don’t really know.

    Note that your worries could also have been voiced by hand-weavers bemoaning the loss of their highly paid art to a water-frame, or any job requiring hand labor loosing to automation. In the end we’re better off with mass-produced clothes and earth-moving equipment than if we had expensive hand-made clothing and millions of guys turning earth by hand.

    Note that the guys running a convenience store right now are usually only taking in money. My step-daughter works as restocker all over this part of the state. She visits C stores, stocks up the candy display for her company and leaves. Which is why the clerks never seem to know what they have in stock or if they carry brand x – they’re only there to take in money and clean up.

    It’s inevitable this kind of thing will succeed, and not the end of the world when it does.

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