People are losing their shit over “Amazon Go,” the Seattle e-commerce monster’s new real-world shopping store concept in which customers can load up an app, walk into a store, pick what they want and “Just Walk Out” (yes, that’s capitalized because it’s a branded phrase that they’re using). Pundits are saying this advance in shopping will disrupt the retail industry. Others are saying that giants like Wal-Mart and Target will have to follow suit just to stay afloat.
I’m here to tell you they’re wrong, or they’re at least doing something that I don’t agree with. Taking humans out of the shopping experience, while it may sound efficient and nice on paper (or on screen?), will only lead to more problems, more headaches, more loneliness, and, possibly, the end of society as we know it. Stay with me here.
First, watch the video of the intended Amazon Go experience:
Looks lovely, right? Just walk in, grab some stuff and Just Walk Out. Don’t need to talk to anyone, or wait in a checkout line. Tofu is in bag, head home, get back on Twitter, and life’s a beach.
But watch the video again, and this time pay attention to one very important thing: Aside from a brief encounter, no one in the video is interacting with anyone else. It’s a bunch of loners with their smartphones walking in, buying things, smiling at their cellphones, ignoring one another and Just Walking Out. Alone.
I’m the first to admit that long lines and crowded checkouts at stores can suck, especially when you’re behind people who aren’t stellar human beings. But shopping in the real world can, and should be, a social experience.
Last Friday, I stopped by my local supermarket with a friend to pick up some things for dinner. We didn’t know what we were going to make, but part of the fun was heading to the market and figuring it out as we walked the aisles. In the produce section, a woman was standing in front of the broccoli and kale, solitary and stoic like a statue, staring down at her Samsung. My friend, in her ever-kind manner, emitted a meek “Excuse me.” Samsung woman didn’t budge.
We ended up working around her, found our cilantro and moved on, bemused.
Do we really want supermarkets full of Samsung girl?
I don’t know. Something about the Amazon Go, Just Walk Out, Just Be Alone shopping experience gives me the creeps for humanity. I like checking out. I like chatting with the cashier, seeing how his week went, arguing about whether or not my bananas were from the organic pile or not. I even like the cranky butchers in the meat section.
It’s part of being human, and all this “don’t deal with humans” nonsense is starting to bug me.