business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's commentary by Michael Sansolo and me about how Amazon's Just Walk Out checkout-free technology is being employed at a Whole Foods store in Washington, DC, MNB reader Ken Pentheny wrote:

Having spend 25 years of my career in Supermarket retail, I think this technology has a place, just like self checkout.  The downfall in the strategy with the Amazon model and the front-end strategy of main line retailers is that they are all sacrificing people contact in the shopping experience with the goal to cut cost and overhead.  How does a store like this handle large basket shopping?  Where is the bagging area, whether you are using paper or your own bags?  Do you bag your purchase in cart while you shop (if you are bagging in cart, is there a redesign coming for shopping carts to make it easier to lift full bags off the cart instead of hefting them over the high sides of conventional carts?)? 

I think a lot of these newer business models underestimate the value of human contact, and that is a shame.  If, and this is a big if, grocery retailers took a hard look at the people aspect of their business model and focused more on that, the industry would benefit.  Why does everyone chase Wegmans as best in class?  Focus on people.

Based on our experience, I would say that large basket shopping doesn't seem to be a problem.  The system encourages bagging in the cart, and the carts seem designed to make it easy.

I would suggest that we can spend all time trying to find holes in the system, but we do so at the risk of ignoring the long-term impact that checkout-free systems are going to have.

And sure, great people can heighten a retail experience.  But how many supermarkets can honestly say that a majority of their checkout personnel are doing that?  I'd argue that great people working in the aisles - maybe actually selling - can be far more effective than checkout personnel at improving the shopping experience.

MNB reader Steve Workman chimed in:

Loved your report on the Whole Foods with Amazon Go in play.

You mentioned a statistic of some % of people in the US that will be exposed to a pay as you go technology.

I just read this morning that Amazon just finalized plans to put a 600 square foot locations at DFW airport.

That should get a lot of exposure……

Agreed.  (And we have that story above.)

On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

While I applaud CVS's stand on harassments and I hope they do take accusations of harassments seriously. as in my mind there is no room for it and never really has been.  I also hope they stay vigilant for false accusations.  Sexual harassments is something where you are guilty until proven innocent, if you can prove you are innocent.  I know of at least one case where a young lady accused a man of sexual harassment because he got a minor promotion she felt she should have had.  The only reason she was found out was that she bragged to a coworker about what she did.

So, my word is to investigate the hell out of it, if the guy is guilty, hang him out to dry, get rid of him.  But, be on the lookout for false accusations as they make it harder for women with real, true stories of harassment to get their stories heard and acted on.