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“Just walk out” technology by Amazon (justwalkout.com)
825 points by bookofjoe 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 742 comments



Aaaand there’s the play. Amazon wasn’t trying to compete with other retails stores by leveraging their tech edge, they were positioning themselves to becoming the single provider of retail checkout solutions for the future. You either opt-in to giving Amazon all your retail data, or you become the only old fashioned “wait in line to get served” store on the street.

And where is the competition? Is there anyone at all who can provide something like this?


There are number of tech companies directly competing in this space:

https://standard.ai/

https://grabango.com/

https://www.getzippin.com/

https://www.v7labs.com/retail

https://www.getzippin.com/

There are competitive options, if you’re in retail you do not have to give Amazon all your “retail data” or use their tech.


Do any of those companies actually have a live customer? Not a demo store, a real paying customer with more than one location live?

Standard.ai apparently has a demo store in SF, although it's been closed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Grabango - one installation in test at a Giant Eagle store.

Getzippin - one installation in test at a Lojas Americanas store. Their site gives the impression that it's really about getting people to install their phone app, so they can be spied upon.

v7labs - we're AI, we don't need installations.


https://www.thirdeyelabs.com/ - real customers - real money - multiple-sites Plus they beat Amazon to this concept by a good few months. https://www.thirdeyelabs.com/news. Granted all the focus/attention in this space is in the US. But it is happening elsewhere too.


"Beat them to this concept"? I can't even remember the first time I heard about this idea. 2003? 1995? I half-suspect I read about the idea in OMNI Magazine.

It's always been a question of when the supporting technology was going to be good enough to make it work. The idea has been around long enough for most of the early patents to expire.


> It's always been a question of when the supporting technology was going to be good enough to make it work.

Yep, I meant more along the lines of how you put it i.e. packaged up and ready to start selling it as a boxed-up/drop-in solution.


IBM had a commercial years ago, probably intended to be based on RFIDs, but same concept.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvHK40N87mE


Qualcomm's spinout Gimbal went broke once so far trying to bring this tech to market, but they're still muddling along.


Found a Grabango video.[1] They did a test for NCR.

[1] https://vimeo.com/352588185


Wow, I have no idea why but this is 404ing. IA can't tell me what the title was either.


Reminds me of this old IBM ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzFhBGKU6HA


Yes, IBM "thinks" the future. Other companies build them.

Conclusion : ideas are worthless, Execution is key


>Conclusion : ideas are worthless, Execution is key

This was also often the conclusion found during the Dark Ages. ;D


Hahahaha Spanish Inquisition likes this


May I suggest a rephrasing for that?

Execution can bring profit. Ideas might not.

History is full of examples of visionaries coming up with ideas that have inspired and fueled others--in some cases whole industries have been founded on these ideas. For instance, Doug Engelbart gave the "Mother of All Demos" in 1968 [1]. It was a proof of concept, but the ideas he talked about were implemented by other companies--who profited from it.

It is unfortunate that we live in a world where ideas hold such little monetary value, but they're most certainly not worthless.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDv-zdhzMY&t=4s


I dunno, makes sense to me. Your idea is worthless to ones self (monetary) if you do not leverage/execute it.


Of course you need both execution and ideas.

But let's say you have very good ideas but you're a mediocre executioner.

1. Could you find a very lucrative job/partnership mostly because of your ideas, and get quality help with the execution ? It's possible.

2. Ideas are easy to steal. Do you have a decent strategy to prevent that from happening ? Those sometimes exist.

3. Not every business sucseeds. Can you try repeatedly ? Maybe, depending on context.


"Ideas are unlikely to have any immediate monetary value until they are executed" is more accurate, but doesn't roll off the tongue so easily.


AT&T had advertisements that said "You Will"...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Will

I was always confused as to why they'd spend money on vaporware advertising, since I don't think they were responsible for doing any of the things.


Bell Labs was responsible for much of the underlying technology, and these applications had been foreseen. But they were undoubtedly deluded about their ability to deliver those applications.


"Branding"

I get why they spent money on vaporware advertising.

But I don't get why there's no modern equivalent. No one seems to be making equivalent statements about technology that's 20-30 years away from today.

There are vague hints that AI and QC will somehow be awesome, but they're very light on specifics.

It's interesting how we got from the forward-looking 90s to the backward-looking 20s.


To be fair, many of those came to fruition over AT&T's network, until you hit your monthly data and FAX cap


Directed by David Fincher!


And in what universe is great execution devoid of ideas?

Do you mean to say that doing something well is way better than imagining doing something well?


Doing something well means you already imagined doing something well first. Or, in other words, "imagining doing something well" is necessary, but not sufficient to actually do something well.


Coming up with an idea for something, and then sharing this idea with other people in an open manner, can plant the seed that germinates the execution for that idea.

To me, that's part of the reason why thought pieces are valuable to me. Also, unconventional tracks at academic conferences, like provocations at DIS 2020 [1] (which I cite here since it's on my mind because I'm personally applying to it right now).

[1]: http://dis.acm.org/2020/provocations.html


I mean, you're not wrong, but at the same time whether you call it "imagining" or "coming up with ideas", if done well the results of said process are valuable.

Ie. Good ideas are valuable


One should also consider that good ideas usually come out of having a lot of domain knowledge in a particular area. And that requires effort and work ("execution" but in the past).


https://www.pixevia.com

At PIXEVIA we develop the technology and run a fully working convenience store in Europe.



That store looks like a render.

There are some fully automated stores the size of shipping containers in Beijing, but they're mostly demos, too.

I don't think anybody really has this working well enough to deploy. It has that machine learning "we got to 95%" look. This is something that's easy to almost do, and the last 5% is really tough.


nit: You posted getzippin twice

I do love how the very first banner video standard.ai shows is how one person passes an item to another. I'm curious to see all the edge cases Amazon Go ran into over the year or two they ran. I can see a lot of messy cases like that coming up.


Another one is https://black.ai/

All the way down in Australia.


They're so cool they don't even have a demo or a video But they can do a large-scale store installation in just days, they claim.


I knew the founder of this one in high school.


From Brazil, Beholder: https://beholder.tech/en/

Although not yet doing automatic checkout, but most of the technology needed for it is there.


There are also existing cashierless stores in China.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QKrHi-G9WQ


What are the false-positive/negative rates of this technology?

What if I grab two items with one hand, and then put one back? Will the system correctly track this?


I think there is an argument to be made of an acceptable increase in false negatives as the cost can be recouped through the efficiency of the system. Not to mention that a system like this should also cut down on theft.


I don't think so, because people will figure out the weak spots and share this information. It will become a sport and people will think "last time I grabbed the milk like this, and they didn't charge me for it, what if I do it again tomorrow?" Hackers will start wearing special clothes with dazzle patterns or with grocery items to fool the system, etc.


What you're describing is no different than the thief mentality that exists today. Most people don't care to steal a carton of milk just because they can. And there's no denying the cost effectiveness of removing your checkout staff or else this tech wouldn't exist.


The difference is that with this kind of stealing the people doing it are not accountable.


But Amazon is going to be the easiest to integrate, which is where Amazon will start, then use the data advantage to improve their product further.


Yep. I've been sitting here thinking Amazon was going to spool up tons of retail locations that leveraged their tech to create a massive moat that other Brick & Mortars couldn't possibly compete with.

In hindsight it seems obvious that the play was to "AWS" the whole thing: make yourself the first/best customer, nail the implementation, then sell it to the world.


It's hard to imagine Amazon actually starting a bunch of retail locations. They'd probably buy Whole Foods or something…


Surprising to me that Whole Foods still doesn't have this tech integrated. You'd think that'd be the "beta" step after the Amazon Store's "alpha" step.


Maybe they don't want to draw attention to how many people are going to lose their jobs because of this yet. Cashier is the #2 job in the US (by number of people employed) [0].

If they released this at Whole Foods, I'd guess they'd fire all the cashiers there. That would make this rollout a lot less exciting for a lot of people.

I hope Amazon comes up with an awesome way to help the cashiers this technology replaces. Then if self-driving cars end up working out, that industry can learn from what Amazon did.

[0] https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/rudy-takala/top-2-us-jo...


> I hope Amazon comes up with an awesome way to help the cashiers this technology replaces.

They can be retrained to work in fulfillment centers. Amazon will provide the piss bottles.


We're already most of the way there with self checkout. My local Home Depot only has self checkout now, with 1 person managing something like 10-15 registers. They left the person running the "Pro"/lumber checkout area, but that area looks like it's being set up for self checkout too. They also seem to have removed the Garden Center checkout.

I'm not saying it's a great thing, just that the jobs Just Walk Out will be replacing are already being replaced by self checkout.


I frequent Whole Foods, and I digital nomad a bit, so I visit a lot of Whole Foods-es.

Recently came back to the East Bay (SF) and the Whole Foods I'm staying near, more than the others, seems like a staging store for Buy Online & 1) Get Delivered, 2) Pick Up In Store.

There are often more WF employees shopping for pick-up orders than customers walking around the store. Navigating aisles that are full of these WF shoppers gives the store a pretty signficantly different feel than the other stores that I'm a regular at. Plus, the staging/storage area at the front for ready-orders is much bigger than at other stores.

Not as true at SF city WFs, or the ones in Reno, LA, Park City and Phoenix/Scottsdale that I'm familiar with.

I'm guessing this dynamic, plus "Just walk out" is where they're headed, at least in certain densities. And that's where some of the cashiers may be transitioned.


Amazon Go stores have plenty of employees, I'd bet they're not saving anything on labor.

The benefit is a much better customer experience, not labor savings.


Well, it's the option.

Retailers that compete on "experience" like Target etc will reinvest into a better customer experience.

Retailers that compete on price like Aldis will focus solely on driving cost down.


> The benefit is a much better customer experience, not labor savings.

The primary benefit is access to a lot better data about shoppers, not a better customer experience.


I'll choose the store where I can grab what I want and walk out over the store where I have to wait in a dumb ass line while the cashier yells for a price check and the customer in front of me can't remember her PIN so slowly counts out nickels and quarters.

It's a massive competitive advantage far beyond whatever data they get by watching me roam the store.


The third-last FAQ entry speaks precisely to your comment:

> Will people still be working in stores with Just Walk Out technology?

> Yes. Retailers will still employ store associates to greet and answer shoppers' questions, stock the shelves, check IDs for the purchasing of certain goods, and more - their roles have simply shifted to focus on more valuable activities.


I wonder what percentage of people will still have a job there?


Do we need to have people working soul-sucking, unnecessary jobs so they can bring food to the table?


Ideally no, but since Universal Basic Income isn't prevalent, yes.


1/n where n is the current number of cashiers in a given store


> If they released this at Whole Foods, I'd guess they'd fire all the cashiers there

Since Whole Foods sells alcohol, I doubt that. There are things that lots of governments won't let you have customers “just walk out” with.


I did my most recent liquor run at the nearby Amazon Grocery.

They check ID entering the liquor section (and it is a human that checks), but otherwise it is bag it and just walk out.


Wonder what happens if there is a dispute between what you take and what they think you took?


They could keep just a few per store to handle that.


Sounds like a job for Bezos Expeditions: municipal lobbying.

As I wrote that I realized they could even employ cashiers to do that instead.


> I hope Amazon comes up with an awesome way to help the cashiers this technology replaces.

I'm not sure why this should be on Amazon. It's on all of us to better train people to have the jobs of the future. Our education system hasn't really changed in 100+ years. It needs to.


Is it on all of us? Why should Amazon reap the benefit of this innovation while the rest of us pay for the consquences?


Amazon doesn't rip the benefits alone, all of us do. Just like Apple doesn't benefit alone from having invented touch-screen smartphones.

And if these companies profit, they do so as a reward for spending the capital (dollars and manhours) in creating new technologies that improve productivity. Specifically total factor productivity in https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobb%E2%80%93Douglas_product...

It's on all of us because it really isn't on anyone in particular, surely not on Amazon.

I can take your statement and flip it around just as easily: why should Amazon bear the costs of paying for many R&D ideas that may or may not pay off? We should all share that cost if we're all going to benefit from those innovations


Are you seriously trying to suggest that everyone benefits from these innovations?


100%. Would you, personally, rather still be plowing with livestock?


Irrelevant, but it’s telling that you have to go back so far to pick something that seems to be universally beneficial.

Are you seriously trying to suggest everyone benefits from Amazon’s innovations?


The thing we need to come up with is a basic income allowing robots to take over our work. Not because it's the right thing to do or a kind thing to do, but because the alternative is civil unrest on a scale few of us are familiar with.


What percentage of cashiers are employed at stores big enough to install this tech?

I would think the majority would be employed at little restaurants, small shops, etc.


I think some parts of Whole Foods are hard to solve (produce, in particular). I’m sure they’ll get there though.


Or Borders...


>In hindsight it seems obvious that the play was to "AWS" the whole thing: make yourself the first/best customer, nail the implementation, then sell it to the world.

It's not just about "AWS"-ing the thing. It's about gaining access to all of the transaction data and marrying that to what Amazon already knows about you. A retailer like Walmart would NEVER use this tech, they know their data is one of the most valuable things they have (in fact they don't share their data with anyone, while all the other FDM retailers do), but boutique retailers like J Crew or whoever would happily.


> and marrying that to what Amazon already knows about you.

Amazon is always putting up ads for me based on my purchase history, but they're never what I wind up buying. I have no explanation for what is wrong with their algorithm.


But you just bought a toilet seat, surely you want five more toilet seats, you toilet seat enthusiast you.


Frequently purchased together: toilet seat, and the exact same toilet seat from a duplicate listing at $20 higher price


I bought a new phone in a store, then bought a cover and a screen protecton on amazon. It sent me a notification: "We think you might be interested in a new phone".

It's pretty obvious that people don't go around shopping for screen protectors and then buy phones to match.


Just realized all the info I’m giving Amazon by using the app. Time to change up habits for 2020


I do all my product searching in incognito mode


I've always assumed that was an artifact of free returns; if you bought one thing, maybe you're actually still shopping and want to know other options. I've noticed when I get these they're frequently more expensive than the one I already bought.


I've always assumed it was repairmen. Some people really do need to buy toilet seats again, and again, and again, each time they do a job that requires replacing one (without ever needing a bulk order of 100.) They also might switch brands depending on whichever one is cheapest at the time; or order several different ones for different concurrent jobs to see which turns out best (like Backblaze does with hard drives.)


I have this experience every time I buy something. Monitor? Needs more monitors. Yoga mats? Clearly opening a studio. Trash bags? This man hasn't learned about dumpsters. Of course this pays off eventually, but it seems like they could come up with a better strategy when they have a bunch of purchase history.


Nope. The fact is after you purchase something you are still in market for that product. So keeping you in a marketing segment will always be more profitable to the advertising team. Yes, you might be finished shopping now that you have finally decided on the best toilet seat, but the marketing segment that you fall into will always convert higher than a control group. There is just way too much data to confirm this.


It may make sense statistically, but for an individual customer it's just a strange experience. Look around this thread for all the comments pointing out the same thing, and wonder if a shopping app that was truly good would have all that people pointing out such strange behavior


And this is one of the hundreds of things that are very, very wrong with marketing these days.


They stopped free returns on Prime a long time ago. Now only a few select items offer it.

This was about the same time they stopped shipping things in cardboard boxes and went with bubble packs, and most recently, paper wrap with no padding whatsoever.


what are you talking about. i buy things from amazon weekly and i have never once received something in paper wrap with no padding and have never paid for a return.


Ordered an alarm keypad it came in a box with zero padding.. just sliding around. A lot of my wife’s orders have been in blue bubble wrapped packaging

Other things however come just as you would expect (paper wrapping or bubble wrapped). So it all depends on the amazon worker doing his or her job..


Source? Literally everything I've returned on Amazon over the last couple years has had at least one free return option (usually via UPS / Amazon Hub dropoff).


Clothing comes to mind, that's also the only case I've ever received something in just a white plastic bag.

Basically, you choose why you're returning. In some cases if you say something other than "the item was defective", it'll only have options that cost money.

It's super rare, but I've seen it before.


Ha, for me it was hammocks.. for years!

Just call me The Hammock Man!


Matter of fact, they're all in the same complex; it's the hammock complex on third.


That's over by Spatula City right?


No, the Hammock District.


Upvote for a random Simpson's reference.


When I was in college Amazon was perpetually convinced I would want multiple different textbooks for the same subject.


The worst was when I searched for gorilla glue once. Good ol' Jeffy B thought I'd also want a $100k watch, a racecar/nascar (themed) Bible, and an anatomical model of some gonads. Pretty sure I still have the screencap somewhere


Wait, I don’t understand. Why did you even need the gorilla glue if you weren’t going to to tell time on your Bible-mounted truck nuts?


Sometimes you can learn a domain-specific life-hack from that kind of thing. I'm guessing, for this example, that gorilla glue is the secret weapon of taxidermy—for all your mounting-a-deer-to-the-wall needs.


It's just about the ROI.

Turns out people who have just purchased something are far more likely to purchase that thing again than a random person.

This makes them the perfect person to advertise to.

Even if the percentage is quite low this can be better than advertising to the general population. Say the numbers were 1 in 10 000 impressions leads to a toilet seat sale, but 1 in 1000 people who have just bought a toilet seat buy another one soon after (first one was broken/distributor/toilet seat collector/remodelling whole home/etc).

If those were the numbers it would be silly to not advertise to recent buyers.

Essentially, the self selection of 'I just bought <x>' very often puts you in a category that is far more likely to buy <x> again than almost anyone else.


There is a simple answer. Once you have bought a turtle necklace, you are identified as a "turtle necklace buyer" as opposed to any other general consumer. Unintuitive as it may be, you are far more likely to buy another turtle necklace than any of 330 million Americans picked at random. Hope that makes sense.


Yeah, it's like their algorithm misses that once you've got X, you probably don't want X (at least not for a while).

But I wonder why they don't just flip the prediction? If you bought X, then advertise anything but X.

Like if you bought a toilet seat, they might advertise toilet paper instead (which would be good, because all the stores around here just ran out...)


Data is useful for a lot more than ads.

Very helpful for identifying what’s hot and releasing your own version. Figuring out seasonal trends. Or getting competitive price information to match/beet. Walmart brags about their ability to presciently stock stores, which keeps turnover & capital efficiency high.


Following up on this: "Amazon promises not to use customer purchase data for anything other than emailing receipts, but that leaves all of the data entailed in actually making the system work." (via Stratechery). Changes the equation a bit.


Maybe their real algorithm is so scary good that they can only use it for internal use. Didn't they also show pregnancy-related items to women who didn't even know they were pregnant yet?

Or maybe showing a wild selection of weird products results in people "brainstorm" other shopping needs, as a kind of anchoring.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchoring#Anchoring_in_negotia...


I believe you’re referring to a story about Target from a few years back:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-targ...


Yesterday I walked into target with my brother and said something along the lines of "I'd rather go to jury duty than shop at target."

I wonder if their creepy surveillance tech knows I said it. I was going there to pick up my brother's medicine from the pharmacy. It's a real shame. I used to LOVE shopping at Target. But the dang store has gotten greedier and super obnoxious over the years.

I was positive they used to use their tracking data to design store layouts with minimal clashing, such that they distribute the shoppers across the store. It seemed to really work, too.

In their newer layouts, I dunno what it is, but everything seems crammed together all in the same spot. They replaced the popcorn, icees, and hot dogs, with food I don't like that costs too much. They got rid of the handbasket things that were handy and all over the store, and got rid of the benches too. Then they sold their pharmacy to CVS.. which immediately threw out the kickass containers Target used to use and added a super obnoxious phone system.

Just overall, I hate shopping at Target now.


No, that's a misconception. They sent letter(s) to at least one person who had been purchasing products commonly purchased by [knowingly] pregnant women. In at least one case, family members "discovered" the pregnancy this way.


Turns out that math is hard and people are difficult to predict.


I suspect Amazon would have better success with me (i.e. better than 0%) if they simply showed me a random ad.


And in this way Amazon gets a lot more data and avoids the "monopoly" issue. Better optics too. But this is the only way that Amazon can get tons of data from smaller companies that they can't (don't want to) compete with (niche products or physical spaces).


Like how they rolled out call center in a box on AWS which both on boards more to AWS and helps train speech and linguistics models.


And they didn't just do that with AWS. They did it with ecommerce as well. Become the biggest online retailer, nail the implementation, then get everyone else to jump on your platform.


They are following it up with shipping and logistics. Amazon has been pushing us hard to switch from FedEx/UPS/USPS to using them for most of our packages, and it's working. Our defect rate is less with Amazon despite all of the anecdotal evidence of lazy/incompetent last mile Amazon personnel, and our rep bends over backwards to make sure she can fix any issues and get us what we need. She's sending us free label printers even though ours are generic enough to work with all carriers including Amazon, just because the labels for them are less expensive.

After shipping with Amazon for our non-Amazon orders for six months, we've moved about 80% of our shipments to them because they save us that much time, hassle, and money. FedEx picks up almost all the rest, with a handful of packages going out UPS and Postal due to address requirements, or customer preference on phone orders (all online orders are Amazon/eBay/website where we limit shipping choices; we are about 60% Amazon, 30% eBay, 8% website, and 2% phone orders on a typical day).


> Amazon has been pushing us hard to switch from FedEx/UPS/USPS to using them for most of our packages

I hope that there's always a USPS option. My apartment complex has package lockers that can only be used by the USPS, so that's the only safe way to get packages delivered when I'm not home.


They are only good because Ebay is pathetically bad.


They're only good because they were repeatedly given an infinite amount of money for 2 decades by investors while their retail operations lost money so that they could nail the implementation and the promise that they would figure out how to make it profitable.


Amazon effectively leveraged investment capital to do exactly what they said they would do - innovate, learn into the market, and improve iteratively. From investors' perspectives (and probably consumers' perspectives as well), Amazon has succeeded brilliantly.


You talk as if Amazon was like an Uber or WeWork. That's really far from the truth.

Amazon were slightly profitable or break-even since 2003. There's a convenient chart of their profits since day one here:

https://qz.com/1196256/it-took-amazon-amzn-14-years-to-make-...

Starting in 1997 they bled money with mounting losses until about 1999, when they began to turn things around. The dotcom pop is clearly visible but they recovered almost immediately and their losses continued to shrink until about 2001-2002 when they became break even. From 2002-2011 they either made small profits or nothing, but that was obviously because they were growing at a rapid pace and putting all the money back into the business. Once AWS launches in 2006 (so about 10 years after day 1 in retail) profits start growing but then are back into the red around the time of the GFC+recession, and again in the 2012-2013 European recession. After that it's stratospheric profits.

How much investor money is "infinite money"? Somewhere between $8-$9 million before they floated on the stock market.

https://www.quora.com/Who-were-the-original-investors-in-Ama...

Obviously, investors who put money into their IPO have done extremely well and cannot claim they were shovelling money into a furnace, far from it.

The inflation in investment round sizes over the past 20 years has been staggering. I see nothing that suggests Amazon was unusual in raising so little money (comparatively speaking) before they went public.


Did they really nail the implementation? I still refuse to buy anything that would go on or inside my body from amazon because I'm worried about getting counterfeits.


I.e. Amazon has long term thinking.


Surprise, when executed well it leads to long term value.


They only lose money on paper. Pouring all the returns back into the business is a very sound business plan.


That was true 5 years ago but with the quality issues on Amazon, I've found myself buying more on eBay.


Yeah, ebay has much better buyer protections unless the item is Fulfilled By Amazon (which carries a cost premium). eBay prices also tend to be better. If you're going to buy cheap chinese crap anyway, just cut out the middleman.

Finally, Amazon's marketplace is just not navigable. Their search is pathetically bad, and this is nothing new, it's been a common complaint for years. Some fairly massive amount of their traffic is inbound from Google searches like "some product amazon" just because of how pathetically bad it is. The only other reasonable way to navigate their site is if their similar product suggestions or "commonly bought together" happens to nail the item you were looking for.

I've had searches where adding an additional keyword that is in the product title will actually cause the product to disappear from the search. What in the actual fuck.


Yes! Amazon's search has been driving me crazy but it went from bad (loose interpretation of what I typed with a whole bunch of irrelevant stuff) to worse (adding more sponsored results, i.e. even less what I want).

Their recommendation engine for related prducts used to be nice but that's been replaced by sponsored products which lowers the quality.

Now, the only way I use Amazon's search is when I have a SKU or part number and type it in directly. But I also do that in Google and often find the same thing elsewhere at similar or less cost (including shipping, though to be fair it may take a day or 2 longer).

eBay's search is still one of the best for me, in that it respects the keywords I put in and allows for extended query syntax to really hunt something down (which then can be turned into a saved search).

One of the most creative things I found on eBay was tool rental. I needed a tool to replace the bearings on my washing machine, and a seller was selling one explicitely as a rental: tool was charged about $120, with $35 shipping. When done, sent it back for a refund. The "shipping" included the rental fee and shipping both ways.


Yeah, I specifically find ebay search to be very powerful and useful as well. It accepts (keywordA, keywordB) as an "or" syntax, -badkeyword as "not" syntax, and filtering for most of their internal functionality (eg auction/buy-it-now format, item location, item price, etc).

The one that they're missing that I really wish they would include is "multi item BIN" formats. People will list a $1 item so that they're the first result that comes up, and then the item you're looking for is high priced. The prices are in fact so high that I go out of my way to try and exclude these items using "not" keywords, setting a minimum price, and filtering to US only, which collectively get most of them.

I have a lot of saved searches for "rare" items that only get listed infrequently, or for items that I'm waiting to come down in price.

The contrast between the way those two sites handle their search is stark.


I personally find eBay to be much better for items that I can't buy from the manufacturer already. Individual sellers have reputations & reviews separate from product reviews, and those ratings are among the first things you're exposed to when interacting with a seller.


> Yeah, ebay has much better buyer protections unless the item is Fulfilled By Amazon (which carries a cost premium). eBay prices also tend to be better. If you're going to buy cheap chinese crap anyway, just cut out the middleman.

That's what I thought until I was scammed by a Chinese on eBay... after countless emails, calls, even police reports, eBay did not return the 800 dollars I lost... not sure if it's an isolated case but it was pretty frustrating.


Amazon has become my "last resort" place. These days, I check eBay before Amazon.


It's interesting that they rolled this out as a thing, but didn't start retrofitting all of their Whole Foods with it. Does it have problems with grocery stores? How does it handle fruits by weight, etc.


Amazon probably doesn't want to radically rock the boat when it comes to Whole Foods at the moment. It is an established well-working business, and they don't want another wave of "WF went to shit after Amazon bought it out, just look at all those changes they've implemented!", given that Amazon's reputation has already been kinda questionable in the public eye recently.


Last Thanksgiving, I visited my parents in the town where I lived before college, and we went to the Whole Foods where we used to shop at all the time.

It looked basically the same, except that there were these huge, bright blue Amazon Prime ads everywhere. It felt vaguely dystopian—a store of my youth invaded by the giant tech monolith.

If Amazon is trying to not noticeably change Whole Foods, they're doing a pretty lousy job.


Well, i didn't say they weren't changing anything at all. Given how perturbed you are by those Prime ads that don't functionally affect anything, imagine the magnitude of the public outcry if Amazon implemented something as radical as "just walk out" tech at Whole Foods.


See, I was thinking of it the other way around. If you're going to change things, you might as well go all the way. Because it's not like they're fooling anyone right now.


If the end goal was to transform all WF stores in the near future, I agree. However, I don't think that is what's happening here. For that transformation to work well, the whole "cashier-less shopping experience" needs to be normalized with the general public, and that's where the brilliance of Amazon's strategy with this tech can be observed.

WF has already served Amazon well by being a test bed for grocery delivery optimization, no need to screw up a profitable existing business with any additional radical changes. That's what Amazon Go stores are for, and now they can sell that tech to other stores. Once the tech is mass-adopted, they can smoothly switch all WF stores to "just walk out" tech with very little complaints, as that's the experience people would be already used to at all the other stores


On the other hand, if they did pull off a seamless integration of the tech into WF, it would be a massive selling point. Amazon Go demonstrates that the tech can work in a store designed around it, WF would show that it can be integrated into an existing business. But they have no reason to rush and use themselves as the guinea pig if they can offload that risk onto literally anyone else. Moving WF over will be the signal that they consider the tech mature enough for large-scale businesses to consider.


>But they have no reason to rush and use themselves as the guinea pig if they can offload that risk onto literally anyone else.

Not only that, Amazon would be literally paid by others to take over Amazon's own risk. This is such a nice play all around, they just need to manage not screwing it up somehow. But execution never was a weakness for Amazon imo, so I bet it will mostly go smoothly.


It will be interesting to see if any large brands take Amazon up on the offer.

If I was a major business, I wouldn't pay Amazon to be a guinea pig, especially when I see them unwilling to do it at their own major retail chain.


Just need giant holograms from Blade Runner to complete the look.


What? You don't want to buy an Alexa smart microphone device?! But we'll give you one for free! Here! FREE ECHO MINI DOT THING! -aggressively hands over- LET US SPY ON YOU AT HOME!!!one!


I'd take it for free -- I can always use the parts for something.


maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've noticed all kinds of everyday things being out of stock (eg, brussels sprouts and lettuce) at whole foods since the purchase. I'm wondering if amazon is getting more aggressive with the JIT inventory strategy.


I'd guess that that one's down to increased usage of grocery delivery services, rather than logistical optimization.

If you've got a Whole Foods and a less-upmarket grocery store equally far from you, you're gonna get your staple foods from the less-upmarket store, and just go to the Whole Foods for the things only they carry.

But if you're making an online order with a fixed-overhead delivery fee from Whole Foods, you're not going to make a separate online order with a fixed-overhead delivery fee from the less-upmarket store; so you're going to end up ordering the staple foods from Whole Foods, too.


> you're not going to make a separate online order with a fixed-overhead delivery fee from the less-upmarket store

If I were doing this, I would be far more likely to make a separate order online than physically. It takes no effort to do it online, but to shop at more than one physical store is additional inconvenience.


They have started testing this with a larger format grocery store: https://www.msn.com/en-us/finance/companies/amazon-opens-lar...

I'm guessing they're slowly scaling up.


Part of Whole Foods experience is the customer experience. The cashiers pack your bags and overall try to engage you in a conversation. The "just walk out" thing would make it less personable.


Are you sure about this? They almost always seem slightly annoyed when I haven't started bagging my own goods in the middle of them scanning items.


Maybe just me but I never feel that? Seems like cashiers are routinely grumpy and silent as a trend.


> Does it have problems with grocery stores?

Based on the video below, it would seem there are a few bugs to work out. For example, never pick up a whisk at an an Amazon Go Grocery store unless you intend to buy it. You will always be charged. [1]

> How does it handle fruits by weight

Fruit aren't priced by weight. This is also covered in the same video.

[1] https://youtu.be/Uutal2M4VXQ


It knows who you are and where you are, so it knows when you're using a scale - so it would just tag the weight to the fruit in your basket.

Or, just over charge by a large enough margin to make up for it.


I know they have scales in the produce section, but I don't think I've ever actually used one. It's something I'll do occasionally if I'm buying from a bulk bin, but fruit or vegetables I just grab however many I think I"m going to need.


I buy my produce "just in time", so I'm frequently using those scales to be sure that I've purchased as close to exactly what I need as possible for what I'm making that day. I don't want leftover produce.

For example, I made two apple pies the other day. The recipe calls for 2 lbs of apples each, so I bought 5 lbs of apples (to account for the weight loss from coring and peeling).


I'm wondering the same thing. Seems like the typical problem with AI in general: dealing with all edge cases in real world scenarios.


Maybe they want to match some revenue with expenses?


The newly opened Go Grocery charges per item for things like avocado's, so i guess it does not handle fruit by weight.


No idea about the quality of their competition, but a startup called Standard Cognition has been in this market.

https://standard.ai/


Jordan from Standard here. We absolutely believe that retailers will prefer to get this new technology from providers like us as opposed to Amazon, their biggest competitor.

So far Amazon has also not shown their technology deployed in an existing store, rather than an Amazon Go. We're actively working on being the first to demonstrate this. Stay tuned over the next couple of months.


I've used amazon go - the tech worked very well for me. They have at least 4 or 5 stores in San Francisco alone - I'd guess 20+ at least if you include Seattle or wherever else they are operating. I haven't see the go grocery store yet.

Can you give us a sense of how many transactions standard is doing every day with it's tech that's further along / more deployed than Amazon? At least the SF location I visited had steady traffic so Amazon is collecting some real data (selection a bit limited so go grocery interesting to me)


Amazon is certainly in the lead in terms of total locations. All of their locations are stores they own, however. The race right now is to show this tech working in existing stores, with a fairly light (aka scalable) install process. We have multiple installs in existing stores at the moment, running in "shadow mode" to confirm the accuracy is the system. These sites are predicting the carts of hundreds of people a day, and seeing good results.


I truly believe that you are "actively working" right now lol.

But, sincerely, good luck. New technology should shake up the existing players, not be an occasion for oligopolies to become even more powerful.


And where is the competition? Is there anyone at all who can provide something like this?

One of the big tech companies in the 80's demonstrated this. I think it was either IBM or AT&T/Bellcore. Essentially, it was just a scanner at the door that read RFID tags in each item, and your credit card.

This was back when RFID was still oh-holy-shit technology.

The reason I think AT&T might have been involved is that the video demonstration was very similar to AT&T "You will" series of commercials that aired around the same time.


IBM was playing with this for sure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-1F71Wa_zo


That's not the same thing at all. Doing it with RFID is trivial. The hard part here is the backwards compatibility with a retail ecosystem that uses UPC barcodes rather than (expensive) RFID tags.


Doing it with RFID is surprisingly non-trivial even in the physical sense. That is the error rate of RFID bulk reads is small enough for opportunistic tracking of stuff, but mostly unacceptable for basing any kind of financial transaction on that.


Don't do a bulk read, then. Build RFID readers—and an RFID-blocking envelope, and a 3G or WiMAX radio—into shopping carts/baskets. Detect each item as it enters/exits the cart using the RFID reader inside the cart, and then use the radio to report it to the store, to sync the physical state of the cart/basket with an equivalent virtual shopping cart. Then, put an RFID tag on the outside of the cart/basket, which will be detected by the door scanner when you leave. Charge for what's in the virtual basket when the physical basket leaves the premises.

Yes, you'll have to recharge your shopping carts/baskets. Just design them to ensure they pass through charge (like a string of Christmas lights) when stacked together, so you only have to plug in (or have a cradle for) the bottom one (for baskets) or frontmost one (for carts.)

It's still a worse idea than using computer vision, if you've got that, but it's not something we couldn't have pulled off a decade or more ago.


The simple solution is to simply make the customer to scan the item when they put it into the basket. It might be somewhat counterintuitive but in the end it makes better read rate.

The amazon thing is obviously based on computer vision which in the hindsight makes sense. And makes more sense than our ideas that includes CV as one of the source into sensor fusion magic...


And for the idea of doing RF magic for RFID: you to some extent want to do that, ant then you will find out that random Chinese sector antenna solves the same problem (obviously with the fact that it is simply not practical/possible to track everything with RFID tag that goes through the warehouse gate)


Well it goes to show you that this isn’t really solving a burning issue at all. If it was, they would have thrown the cheap RFID tags on everything 30 years ago.


I don't see it mentioned elsewhere, but Amazon could very easily disrupt credit card companies as part of this play as well.


BINGO - this is basically the ultimate play for getting rid of the networks almost entirely if not entirely


> You either opt-in to giving Amazon all your retail data, or you become the only old fashioned “wait in line to get served” store on the street.

Is this still a thing? In Poland most shops allows you to scan and pay for products in matter of seconds without any help. No lines, no hassle. :)


It's been like that in most supermarkets I went in the last 5 years. I don't really see the point of amazon's version. And from what I read it doesn't even work yet. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/02/amazo...

I'd be really impressed if any large supermarket chain (outside of the US) would be ok to be so tightly coupled to amazon for virtually no benefits compared to self checkout. It's like a lot of what SV is pumping out, half assed solution to non existing problems.


> In Poland most shops allows you to scan and pay for products in matter of seconds without any help. No lines, no hassle.

In my part of the US this is common as well, but there's almost always a line to use the scanners that is about the same as the line for the a human checkout clerk. So I almost always opt for the human.


Where’s the evidence anyone will actually use this thing? Maybe eventually. You can already do this at apple, but does anyone do it? Perhaps, they will get used to it in time, but i don’t know.


I do it at Apple, but afaik Apples system is based mostly on trust? You just scan and pay with your device, then walk out. Granted, I haven’t tried to steal so there could be more tech than I realize.


I know someone who worked at an apple store a few years ago and they told me that they really had no way to know and lots of products were stolen.


And that's also why you can't do it with small, high-demand products such as AirPods (at least in the stores I've been in).


I do. I think in my last ten purchases from an Apple Store I've only not had a zero-interactivity experience once. And that was because a Genius had get a Thunderbolt 2 to USB-C cable from the back. Even then, once she handed it to me, I still checked out on my phone with the Apple Store app.


Looking at the status of American retail, not a chance. We put chips in credit cards 20 years too late, and to this day in major metro cities plenty of name brand stores have a little scrap of paper taped to the card reader telling you to swipe. No one likes chip readers unless you have a fetish for security, they are slow and fail before the rest of the credit card. Swiping is instant and works with the scrappiest of credit cards, and that's what people prefer when given the choice. Apple pay and other touchless systems are not in heavy use, either, and have also been around for years.

This is an industry with a lot of inertia, and customers are not going to be driving this change like a lot of optimists at amazon might expect. They will struggle when the tech isn't working right and prefer the old ways, as they do now.

Plus there is the rampant theft that will occur, unless you hire someone to stand there and man the door. And at that point you've spent millions on this fancy tech that your shareholders salivated over to have the same exact payroll overhead as you did when you had someone sitting there scanning items.

If this makes amazon and the dime a dozen clone startups some money, good for them, but I don't see this changing the world.


> Where’s the evidence anyone will actually use this thing?

Well, who knows how much interest will truly materialize, particularly given the data leaked to amazon, but the post claims/implies that retailers reached out to Amazon and were interested in licensing the technology.


But at apple it's a much more standard checkout flow, right? Scan an item, press "buy" and done, right?


Not only your data, but the stores also. Now Amazon will know every item that sells, and at what price. Wonder what comes next?


Well, the most obvious is selling that data to competitors (store-level and product-level) and governments.


Skip [0] lets you scan and pay for items with your phone, so it doesn't require any infrastructure be installed but isn't as simple for the customer.

[0] https://getskip.com/


This will destroy more adtech companies than you can imagine. Amazon will have so much of your shopping habits. They'll have even more than just one credit card company will be able to have...


We have to consider the question: “why not both?” Consider that Amazon, in addition to serving a high scale, high availability e-commerce website, also offers white label services for fulfillment, payment, and serving high scale, high availability websites. In other words Amazon provides, as a service, virtually every piece of infrastructure needed to deliver Amazon’s core business. So I wouldn’t infer that this is an either/or. At the very least I’d expect Whole Foods to adopt this service, for instance.


> And where is the competition?

Technically Walmart did this in their Rogers, AR flagship store in the late 90s, but consumers found it awkward/error prone and didn’t use it much. I have a feeling Walmart shockingly enough was just to far ahead of the curve technology and culture wise (if memory serves, self checkout wasn’t even a common thing back then or if so, was just becoming one).


Walmart. But they only care about what lowers costs. They've been researching RFIDs and stufff like this since at least the early 00s, and they rolled a lot of it out in their shipping/transit network, but I'm guessing they have too much shrinkage/theft to worry about in most of their stores. No cost savings, so it doesn't happen.


Or maybe the thing turned out not profitable/non-functional but they are trying to profit from it nonetheless.


Their FAQ states they do not collect data right at the bottom of the page?


Fear not! Yesterday I shopped at a big box grocery store where all I did was scan my cart with my phone, pay with the attached card, and walk out the door.


What brand grocery store was that?


Most UK supermarkets offer this service. You need a store scanner that you pick up with the trolly. Scan everything, then pay and leave. You'll get stopped very occasionally for staff to check you aren't stealing. But they don't do much other than make you pay for things you haven't scanned. "Oh the kids put it in there without me noticing."


ASDA, at least, offer an iOS app that lets you scan as you go. Which is handy because the scanners are at the wrong* end of the store for me.

(I believe M&S has something similar?)


I've seen this at giant eagle a couple of years ago


Probably not as impactful as it would have been 20 years ago - why go to the store at all when I can order from Amazon online?


>And where is the competition? Is there anyone at all who can provide something like this?

Isn't the better question, "where is the product"? Is it a gimmick?

This looks awesome, but until I see it in action, working flawlessly, outside of the Seattle/Silicon Valley nexus, I'm not sure there will be (or needs to be) any competition.


I moved from Seattle to the midwest.

I’ve seen a lot of very intolerable lines in the suburbs. It’s not unusual for me to wait 15 minutes to checkout at Target or Costco and last December I remember a 25 minute line.

I think this is a product. There’s about six different grocery store within a fifteen minute drive from my house. I’ll switch to the first one to implement this system.


What about self checkout or just adding more lanes ?

This really doens't sound like a problem that needs amazon and "technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning"


> And where is the competition? Is there anyone at all who can provide something like this?

Um, Walmart and most major grocery stores already have self checkout areas. So “wait in line to get served” isn’t quite the comparison. Most companies will give zero fucks about adopting this unless it becomes the expected norm.


I may be misunderstanding your argument, but I think the parent argument still applies whether you are getting served by a human or being served by a machine which has the same "one checkout at a time per person" kind of bottleneck that a human has.

Edit: The "scan your own cart" model is a more compelling counter-argument than the self checkout machines currently at Wal-Mart, as this can accommodate a much higher throughput.


This is just an observation that doesn't contribute meaningfully to discussion, but ...

Twenty years ago this web site would 100% have looked like an April Fool's joke.

Don't know what to make of that. Maybe it's that although retail feels almost exactly the same as it always has, under the hood lots of parts have really been moving, and I just haven't noticed?

The parallel observation is that when Gmail was announced it totally did seem like a prank. You're offering how much storage for free? for everyone? How?.


And why is this a standalone site and not inside the Amazon.com portfolio?

EDIT:

JustWalkout.com was registered anonymously at GoDaddy 7 years ago: https://www.whois.com/whois/justwalkout.com

Amazon.com has public DNS contact info: https://www.whois.com/whois/amazon.com

There's no TM or R marks around the term "Just Walk Out" on the page and no Favicon.

Are we sure this is real?


Huh, that actually looks kinda suspicious. Reuters has an article up [1] quoting an amazon VP about the launch, so it seems like the info is legit.

But i don't see any link to this justwalkout.com from anywhere on amazon.com, justwalkout doesn't pull in any content hosted on amazon.com, the reuters article doesn't reference it, and all the other tech blogs talking about this seem to just be referencing the reuters article.

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-store-technolo...


If it wasn't legit, amazon would have already released a statement denying it. You'd then be reading about it here...


It's possible someone at Amazon is just gauging interest as they do with their test press releases and one pagers. They may or may not move forward based on how much interest they get (i.e. serious emails)


Their SSL certificate was issued by Amazon. So it seems legit.


Well the SSL certificate was issued by Amazon.


As is pbs.org, or nasa.gov, or a bunch of other CloudFront websites that are only connected to Amazon because they use AWS.


GMail solved a thorny problem: convince users to browse the web while logged in, preferably with their real life identity. To then collect and aggregate an extensive personalized dossier of their online activity without any fear of legal repercussions. This is priceless.

Then just play the trends: how much space the median user actually uses, user adoption trends, planned storage capacity, storage cost. Possibly the whole GMail never used more than 1% of of Google's total storage capacity.


That may have been an upside, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the plan at the time. I don't think Google had the notion of "user accounts" before GMail was launched. I think the plan was more likely "serve ads via search engine results, but for email."


That's precisely the point. GMail gave Google user accounts, which made the cost largely immaterial.

The 24/7 global corporate surveillance network has it's roots in Sun and its "The Network is the Computer", as early as 1984. Hard to believe Google just stumbled into a trillion dollar business model two decades later.


I'm not saying Google isn't evil, but I don't buy this particular piece of conspiracy theory. Every major browser including Google Chrome is starting to phase out third-party cookies, which prevents exactly that kind of tracking.


When you own the browser you don’t need cookies anymore.


Just a couple of years ago, Google was one of the major tech companies who were strenuously defending the use of third-party cookies. They're shifting to eliminating them (someday) solely because they were forced to. The other major browsers were committed to doing it, and it became clear that this could pose a threat to the dominance of Chrome if Chrome didn't follow suit.

But at the same time, Google (as well as the rest of the marketing industry) is working on replacing the functionality of third party cookies without having to use them -- thus negating the entire reason to restrict third party cookies.


Except that Google can essentially track individual Chrome installations and all the activity that happens on that, so blocking third party cookies doesn't necessarily mean that Google can't track you...

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22236106


IBM viewed this tech seriously enough to be marketing it to the public in 2006. It wasn't a "Hey, we're making this." ad but more of an, "We're cool because we're working on this, sorta maybe." ad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzFhBGKU6HA

14 years later, it's still vaporware. There are a lot of fairly tough problems that need to be solved to make it work. Today, Amazon is probably better positioned to sucker/bully retailers into adopting their solution than IBM is. It remains to be seen if they can actually pull off the tech side of things though. IBM is not a company that's easy to laugh at.


I was with you until that last line. Maybe it's because I never saw IBM in its prime or because I only happen to hear about IBM when there's a ton of media spin on a product that never shows up as anything more than a gimmick (IBM has 5nm chips in 2017!!! Look at Watson!). I just don't find laughing at IBM to be that far-fetched of a concept.


AT&T You Will ad from 1993 on grocery shopping...

https://youtu.be/AdDC-8179hw


> Twenty years ago this web site would 100% have looked like an April Fool's joke.

Twenty years ago, "Just walk out" technology in grocery stores looked more like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrwjiO1MCVs


Not sure if I would've viewed it as a prank. Maybe some ambitious plan involving physical RFID tags, that was doomed to fail.


Yeah with all the innovation it indeed seems like we are living in a fairy tale. 20 years ago it would be impossible to think that you can order stuff from an unknown location/seller using a piece of glass. And soon we'll have drones coming to our house with packages.


20 years ago was the year 2000. Amazon and eBay were founded in 1995.

Also: imagine you could write what you want on a ground up dead tree, drop it in a special box and a few weeks later, the item shows up. That's a catalog, and Sears was making them in the late 1800s. I bet there are older examples.


> imagine you could write what you want on a ground up dead tree, drop it in a special box and a few weeks later, the item shows up.

And suddenly I'm reminded of If all stories were written like science fiction stories

https://web.archive.org/web/20040929041451/http://www.shrove...


> imagine you could write what you want on a ground up dead tree, drop it in a special box

And then, later, we could also order by phone and credit card, just giving our card number over the phone (since we didn't expect to be dealing with or be surrounded by assholes, like nowadays on the IoA) and getting the items after a few days (since the standard Post was better organised than the pitiful mess it has become now).


If I set aside the 'unknown seller', which is not really unknown: Mid 80's, France: order something with your Minitel (terminal available free of charge) from any of the major mail-order companies, get it delivered in 48 hours.


> 20 years ago it would be impossible to think that you can order stuff from an unknown location/seller using a piece of glass.

FYI 20 years ago the total yearly e-commerce trade sales accounted for $27B in the US alone [1].

[1]: https://www.statista.com/statistics/185283/total-and-e-comme...


People were thinking of that in the late 90s. During the dot com bubble people were predicting the end of physical retail stores and people leaving their house to shop. A few years later people were predicting the end of printed materials.


> 20 years ago it would be impossible to think that you can order stuff from an unknown location/seller using a piece of glass.

Except for the fact that you could actually do this 20 years ago.


LOL. At first, I thought you were trashing their website. ... "cause these days, tech giants put way more energy into their April's fools day jokes than Amazon put into this website."

Also, that name, OMG, there are going to be so many protest signs that use this.


Well and try to Google "Amazon walkout" and all you find will be this site. Smart move!

See also this

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-model-google-n...


While there will always be change in the world it certainly feels like the rate has been getting faster.


The last few times I've gone to my local pharmacy (Rite Aid) I've watched a single cashier operate more than one checkout registers at a time. She did this because it took so long to process payment and print a receipt -- e.g. while she waited for my payment to go through (via credit card) she'd ring up the next customer on another register.

She's trying to ring up the most customers per minute possible and using a second register helps her increase her checkout rate.

It's not unusual that I spend more time waiting to check out than I do actually shopping. I'd love solutions like "just walk out" since my experience lately seems to be something along the lines of "grab what I need and stand in line unnecessarily".


Whilst Amazon Go is cool, that's not an argument in its favour. That's purely a US specific screwup. In the rest of the world you can clear contactless transactions in a few hundred milliseconds with competent retailers; that's why it's possible to tap your way through the gates at busy London Underground stations. And retailers love contactless exactly because it's so fast and it lets them reduce staffing/handle more customers.

I don't know about your part of the US but it's now pretty common everywhere in Europe to have nearly unmanned retail stores. All the checkouts are self service. You can grab a portable scanner at the front, scan items as you walk around grabbing them and then tap your card at a checkout kiosk.

Amazon's implementation sounds even easier (no scanning required), but in terms of raw throughput it's probably only a bit better.


That still doesn't solve the problem of waiting while people get all their items scanned, and I doubt that countries outside of the US have managed to solve that one.

Imo there is nothing in terms of convenience and speed that can beat "just walking out".


Serious question - how widespread is self checkout in the US? I rarely queue at local supermarkets in the UK, I can checkout in <30s with a few items.


Cannot speak for the whole country, but after living in cities on both coasts, I can say it is extremely widespread. The issue is that even with 10 self-checkout stations, there will be a queue at "normal" times of the day, as there are a lot of people shopping at any "normal" time. And that's not even a particularly large store I am talking about, it is a local QFC. I spend at least 5 minutes just waiting in line every time wanting to buy something. Not even mentioning the process of scanning, bagging, etc.

One cool thing about Amazon Go is that it actually sends you an email afterwards telling you how much time you spent at the store. Without failure, my overall times range between 30 seconds and 2.5 minutes. While for a regular grocery store, I would estimate it to be at the very least 10 mins for an equivalent amount of items purchased. Maybe it is my own quirk, but it deeply annoys me to spend time doing things in an inefficient manner, whereas I know I can do them much more efficiently AND with less effort.


Self checkout is nearly ubiquitous in US grocery stores, where I barely ever wait at all for checkout. It's rare in places like convenience stores or the large pharmacies (would you call it a chemist if it sells overpriced groceries too?)

Judging from visits to London, our grocery culture is different mainly in that we usually buy weeks of food at once. Some people still use checkers to help them efficiently get through a giant cart of food. And our grocery stores are often gigantic, maybe dozens of lanes of checkout side by side, where in Europe I often see maybe... two?

I've waited in lines in UK and European stores, (Fortnam during the holidays?), but rarely waited in grocery stores over there, even in places without self check. There's just much less foot traffic in any individual grocery because they're so much smaller.

But maybe I'm just comparing US suburbs with UK cities, not sure.


It's pretty widespread, but I frequently have to wait in line to use the self-checkout machines. It doesn't necessarily get me out the door faster.


Most of the major supermarket or big box stores has self checkout. They will always have a few lines with staff but the majority is self checkout these days. A good portion of the people buy a huge amount of stuff at a time and the lines can get long. Typically the people with a few items tend to go to the self checkout line.


It seemed rare 3-4 years ago, but now Kroger, Publix, Walmart, Target, they all have ~6-12 s/c registers, sometimes at each end of the store (often so far apart a line forms at one, while the other remains empty).

There seem to be a lot of cashiers on weekends, but fewer overall. So many unused lanes, most of the year.


What waiting to get items scanned? I can't remember the last time I had to wait for that. (you're talking about people waiting in line for other people to scan their items, right?)


you don't need to wait.. You get a portable scanner, you scan them as you pick them or whatever, no need to scan in a queue.


We have pretty close to instant transactions here in Australia but I every now and then I find a place where it takes 30-60 seconds for it to process. I think the issue is actually just the store has bad network coverage and the machine fails multiple times before it can send the transaction properly.


I believe they do some sort of local batching of transactions then settle them all at once. You can see this sometimes if you go shopping early in the morning and you're the first person to use a particular EFTPOS terminal for the day, the UI will show a few extra steps in the processing workflow.


I'm not sure how this would work. Surely they must have to contact the card company to process the payment as soon as it happens since they have to show the accepted/declined message before the customer walks off.


There are retailers in other countries and payment terminals that have implemented the self-checkout to be very close to "just walk out".

- no item weight confirmation - no steps in-between trying to sell me things - no annoying voice overs - decent UX (navigation) for the 99% case

Here is how I pay in those stores: - scan my item(s) placing them directly in my bag: taking ~1s per item - navigate through 3 screens by hammering the [Next] button that is in the same spot on all these screens: takes less than 1s - pay contactless with my creditcard: takes less than 1s

The US screwed up each of those 3 steps.


i duno where you live but at my local pharmacy there used to be 3 cashiers, now there are none (just 2 kiosks). a person is around but they seem to usually be doing something other than checking people out (just tending to the machines when there is, for example, an elderly lady using coins)

the first gen kiosks were pretty bad (slow, overly sensitive, no way to go back if you click the wrong thing, etc) but the current ones are solving those issues and have all but eliminated lines in my experience


I feel like self checkout kiosks already solve this. Commodotized Amazon Go tech is a minute improvement in convenience compared to traditional cashier -> self checkout.


Minor compared to self checkout seems understating the impact depending on where you are and how busy the store is. I find myself waiting in line for a self checkout regularly. (Target and recently Home Depot.) Compared to just walking out, this would save at least 5 minutes for each visit in my experience.


Absolutely not. The difference in waiting times between cashiers and the self checkout lane is minimal (as it obviously should end up). Self checkouts require a reasonable amount of time to go through, even without a queue (when there often is one at the shops near me). Simply walking in and out would be a massive change from self checkout for buying a small number of items.


Self checkouts allow paying with cash as well. Even more so than regular checkouts. I tend to just empty all of my low value coins in to the self checkout knowing a machine won't be pissed off about counting them all.


The crucial difference is self checkouts displace the labor onto the end user with more or less the same delay as a checkout. This will remove both the delay and the checkout work task.


apart from the line up at the self-checkout, the number of people who can't seem to operate a self-checkout is still non-trivial.


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