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The Hassle Of Convenience

July 28th, 2023 1 comment

link: https://www.newsnationnow.com/business/lululemon-workers-fired-calling-police/

By now, most people are aware of the trend towards self-checkouts in many retail store chains.  From Wal-Mart to Whole Foods to Home Depot, we’ve all encountered those electronic kiosks at which you can scan and pay for your goods instead of having a live person do it for you.

Someone must think this is a good idea since they have gone way beyond the experimental stage and such kiosks are everywhere.  Someone must have done some calculations and determined that not having to pay wages, employment taxes and dealing with troublesome employees would result in huge benefits to the bottom line.  We can see the marketing spin on this; the customer can do it as fast as a clerk and it will be more “convenient”.  In reality, anyone who has stood behind someone unable to properly scan an item is already aware that this is neither faster nor more convenient,

There’s that key word, convenient.  This one word is the basis for so much change in the consumer landscape over the past decade and a half.  Marketing of any product or service must have at its core, the aspect of convenience.  In reality, it’s a euphemism for catering to lazy people. We may still recall when that concept was applied to grocery stores with limited items where one could ‘conveniently’ buy a loaf of bread or a jug of milk without having to go through the horror of wading through an entire grocery store.  This concept became the basis for the 7-11 store chain; although in practice, 7-11’s sell mainly meat jerky and sugary drinks the size of small kegs. They also serve as training grounds for robbers.

Whole Foods is pushing the idea of convenience even further by inviting people to experiment with chips embedded in their hands that would allow someone to not have to go through the onerous process of taking out a wallet to pay for their goods.  Just wave their hand over the scanner and they can be off to pursue their urgent lives.  Of course, this is sold as convenience.  Not lost on some is the similarity to cattle that have electronic sensors attached to their ears for tracking purposes.

While all of this push for convenience is going on, some businesses are pushing the envelope even further.  As the linked story above details, a Lululemon store has punished some employees for having the temerity to call the police on some clients who were only enacting their advanced ideas of convenience by just walking out the door without paying at all.

This is a whole new level of retail technology.  Not only do you not need cashiers, you don’t even need to pay.  Clients can simply browse through the goods and leave with whatever catches their fancy.  This certainly eliminates the trouble of having any kind of seasonal sales campaigns, because they’re no longer needed.  This whole notion dovetails with the oft proposed idea of a cashless society.  Who needs cash or currency, when you can just take what you need?

Strangely, this is at odds with another trend we see more often in certain urban centers wherein the aisles of the retail stores are encased in glass doors and an employee is required to retrieve the goods for the customer. What’s especially odd is that these stores often serve exactly the same customer base in the same city.  Gee, I wonder which model of customer convenience will prevail?