Re: ECON: Robots Replace Check-Out Clerks

From: John Thomas (
Date: Fri Jan 11 2002 - 13:03:09 MST

At 10:43 AM -0800 1/11/02, wrote:
>JR forwards:
>> Optimal Robotics sells more U-Scans
>> MONTREAL - Optimal Robotics Corp. has sold another 500 U-Scan self-checkout
>> systems to U.S. grocery giant Kroger Co., further establishing the
>> as the retail industry's next widely adopted innovation.
>These are not, as the subject line implies, robotic systems. They are
>simply self-service scanning stations. The customer does the scanning
>instead of the checkout clerk. There is a supervisor who watches people
>to make sure they aren't slipping anything past the scanner.
>They've got one of these at the local K-Mart. I was surprised how hard it
>is to scan things. I remember when checkout scanners were first installed
>at supermarkets and such, the clerks had a lot of trouble making them
>work, turning products every which way and waving them back and forth over
>the scanners in frustration. Well, I found myself doing the same thing.
>It takes practice to hold the product in the correct orientation so that
>the scanning goes as smoothly as when the professionals do it.

  My local library experimented with a self-service book checkout system a
year or so ago. Since there was no money involved, and the only
requirement was to place the book(s) and your library card in the correct
position on the checkout device so that scanners would read your card and
the bar code inside the front cover, and disable the theft alarm on the
book's spine, you'd think this would be a relatively simple process.
  After a month's trial, the library staff found that they were spending
far more time explaining how to work the device than they saved not having
to check out the books. Admittedly, the written instructions were
inadequate, but after a couple of false tries I figured it out and used the
device regularly thereafter. Today, a long line at the clerk-serviced
checkout counter is still the norm.

     John Thomas

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