'There go our jobs': Are cashierless stores a new threat in SA's unemployment crisis?

19 August 2021 - 14:17 By cebelihle bhengu
In a cashierless store, customers scan a smartphone app to enter, then cameras and sensors track what they remove from shelves. The retailer bills the customer using credit or debit cards on file.
In a cashierless store, customers scan a smartphone app to enter, then cameras and sensors track what they remove from shelves. The retailer bills the customer using credit or debit cards on file.
Image: Shoprite/Supplied

Some have threatened to boycott Checkers after the group announced the launch of its cashierless trial store on Wednesday.

Among the dominant concerns and complaints about the pilot store is the potential loss of employment for those who work for the retailer, should it decide to adopt the concept at stores countrywide. 

The strategy seeks to provide a more convenient shopping experience for customers and to monitor their behaviour using technology. 

The trial store is operating from Cape Town, where only 40 items are available to purchase. The cashierless store allows customers to scan their smartphone app to enter, while cameras monitor the items they will pick up from the shelves. 

There were some positive comments from readers who welcomed the convenience it would provide to shoppers, while others said the change was not a surprise as SA is moving towards the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

But most who responded to the reports were unimpressed by the concept, claiming it may have come too early for SA, which has an official unemployment rate of 32.6%, according to Stats SA.

Others have gone as far as threatening to boycott the retailer if it rolls out the cashierless stores. 

Any comment from Checkers on the criticism will be included once received.

Shannon Moffett wrote: “Shocking that they would consider this with such high unemployment. It won't stop there.”

Matome Moremi also echoed concerns about unemployment and called for government intervention. “Can the government stop this shop from introducing this nonsensical idea, as it will just make the unemployment worse,” Moremi wrote. 

Shanta Nair wrote: “This is not right for SA. The unemployment rate is too high and this will negatively impact too many families who rely on a cashier's salary. I definitely will not shop at any place that doesn't give me the option of a friendly cashier.”

For Maisha Bopape, technology takeover is unavoidable. He said South Africans must start their own businesses: “This is a wake-up call for all of us who depend on other people for work that we must start small businesses because technology is taking over and nothing is going to stop it.”


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