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Customers want to see faces, not screens.

The article focuses on the decline of self-serve registers at supermarkets.  According to the article, self-serve stations became popular in supermarkets about ten years ago.  At the time of its creation, automated self-service was quite an exciting idea given the technology of the day.  The fact that you could bypass an entire shopping queue to scan your one item for the first time with the help of a computer was quite a novel concept a decade ago, several years before the arrival of smart phones.  However, as the world witnessed the creation of blu-ray, Android, and other new technologies, the cheap thrill of self-service began to lose it luster.  Now, people are showing to prefer service that involves human interaction, as opposed to the cold efficiency of a computer.  Stephanie Reitz from the Associated Press writes about how companies are looking toward diminishing the amount of these automated registers due to a lack of human interest.

This sudden down turn in the demand for these automated self-service machines in favor of human service says a lot about the structure of our society.  The people that shop at these markets are most likely part of a well formed community, as dense communities would make great use of supermarkets.  These people want to feel like they are connected within their community, and the supermarket plays a role in reinforcing that connection.  In our heads we may not have a very detailed network describing our social lives, but we have a vague idea about the aggregate relationships within our community.  The supermarket can be seen as a crucial element in the community network, as the cashiers act like bridges to another area of a social network and reinforce previous ties.  If your friend shops at the same supermarket as you, by interacting with a staff member of that supermarket you are not only creating a triad consisting of you, your friend, and the staff member, but you are also bridged with everyone the staff member is connected with.  The automated self-service machine eliminates any reinforcement of a community connection. Today supermarkets see enough of a reason to remove these once highly touted machines.  It’s clear that we don’t go to the supermarket, or any other local amenity, just to complete the task we came there for.  We also go there to establish and reestablish network-reinforcing connections that are essential to the balance of a well-functioning community.


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