I try not to use the self-checkout lane in grocery and hardware stores. I’m old school; I think people should be able to make a living — or close to it — and the money they earn should circulate around the local economy, helping other businesses and maybe even leaving enough money for people to throw at the local public radio outlet.
You’ve probably noticed that as people have gotten used to the automation, they’ve provided fewer and fewer humans as alternatives at the checkout. Soon there will be none. And then they’ll come for you.
This was made even more clear to me the other day, when I stopped into the newly renovated McDonald’s in Inver Grove Heights.
“Would you like to use the new automated order system?” said one of the neat old ladies who I’ve grown to love, even though I often had to shout my orders and explain a few things before I could pollute my temple.
“Hell, no!” the voice in my head said as my mouth went into manual Minnesota override without proper authorization, uttering, “Sure!” before I could stop it.
It’s a simple touch screen with a chain system of answering questions that took twice or three times as long as it would have had I been able to walk up to my human friends and said, “Number 1 meal, small drink, going out,” swiped my card and grabbed the food that another human put together.
McDonald’s practically invented efficiency, so it’s a national scandal that we’re just going to stand by and watch what we all know will happen eventually. Were our “conversations” with the new system to take place with our human friends, drawn out with a series of questions, each would be dead by the end of the lunch rush.
This week, McDonald’s said it would convert 1,000 stores per quarter to the new technology. And don’t think you’re not going to pay the price. The experts have calculated that you’ll order more food via the kiosks than you would talking to a human, according to Yahoo Finance, something that would’ve happened if they’d just put apple pies back on the menu board.
“What we’re finding is when people dwell more, they select more,” CEO Steve Easterbrook told CNBC on Monday. “There’s a little bit of an average check boost.”
Not if I don’t go into your store, Steve. An MSN survey said 78 percent of those asked say they wouldn’t go into a store with automated ordering.
Half the stores will have the kiosks by the end of the year. Other countries have already wiped humanity out of the business.
“The U.S. is a little bit behind,” Easterbrook said.
There are plenty of people who will blame this on efforts to increase the minimum wage, but Reason.com says it’s about the extra money you’ll be spending at the fast food joint.
“Minimum wage laws do a lot of bad things, but those new kiosks at McDonald’s are not among them,” it says.
Fingers crossed for you, old ladies in Inver Grove Heights. But automation/retail history isn’t on your side.