Amazon shook the grocery industry with its recent plans to acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, stirring up speculations and analyses about how things will change.
At any rate, one thing is for sure: It's going to change the way consumers shop, whether or not they have been doing their groceries at Whole Foods.
Still, the deal will obviously affect not only the supermarket, other food players, and buyers but also the cashiers, which could soon be another statistic among the jobs made obsolete by technology.
Amazon's Whole Foods Acquisition
Amazon looking into brick-and-mortar stores have always been more or less public knowledge, and this move is arguably a huge step forward in that direction, with Whole Foods as a natural target.
The e-commerce retailer has yet to outline concrete plans on restructuring the supermarket chain, but its shot at mixing technology and traditional shopping gives a glimpse of what could be in store, dubbed Amazon Go.
Put simply, it lets shoppers enter the premises using an app, do their groceries, and finish without having to fall in line, automatically adding the items they pick up to their Amazon accounts.
According to the company, that's been made possible thanks to computer vision, deep-learning algorithms, and sensor fusion. Basically, the combination monitors shoppers and makes sure they're charged the right amount.
Of course, that's mostly to the benefit of the consumers — no long checkout lines and no need to pull out a credit card or cash. However, it cuts the cashiers out of the equation.
Needless to say, that, coupled with the Whole Foods acquisition, could spell bad news for approximately 3.5 million workers, as it may very well be kickstarting the retailers' switch to automation.
In Amazon's defense, it's implementing such technology to make consumers' shopping experience more convenient, not to mention it could open more spots for other positions at Whole Foods, including but not limited to shelf stocking and food preparation.
Even so, cashiers don't seem likely to get a break from the look of things. Aside from this, self-checkout services and online shopping, such as Amazon's Fresh, also threaten their profession.
"Advances in technology, such as self-service checkout stands in retail stores and increasing online sales, will continue to limit the need for cashiers," the Department of Labor says.
However, it should be pointed out that the online retailer currently doesn't have any plans to replace the employees with robots. Emphasis on "currently," though.
Jobs That Went Extinct Due To Technology
It's no mystery that technology makes jobs obsolete. Throughout history, that has always been the case.
For instance, lamplighters are no more ever since society has taken up electricity as the standard to power streetlights instead of gas. Pinsetters are also goners, as bowling alleys have long relied on machines to set up pins.
While those two are pretty old examples, one comparatively recent occupation that's biting the dust is video rental clerks. With the rise of the digital age, stores such as Blockbuster Video have went out the window, though there are still a few out there (paywall).
To boil things down, Amazon is changing the way people will shop, and its acquisition of Whole Foods and its vision with Amazon Go are strong evidence to that.