This summer, unmanned convenience stores are taking off in Beijing and Shanghai. BingoBox, Eat Box, and others are launching stores where you grab, pay, and go without ever talking to a clerk.
To keep you from just grabbing and going, these stores have a double door-based security system where you to use either a QR code or facial recognition tied to an account to get into the store. When you try to leave, you can’t get through the second door if the RFID tag on your soda doesn’t tell the security system that you’ve paid.
Nor surpassingly, the launches haven’t gone off without a hitch. BingoBox stores discovered the hard way that if you don’t have good air conditioning, the summer turns their store into a HeatBox, melting chocolates and little cakes. But overall, their prospects look very promising.
I couldn’t find estimates on how much these unmanned stores will reduce labor costs; even if there’s no clerk, someone still needs to restock, keep the place clean, etc, and from what I could read it’s not clear how the stores are getting that work done. And of all the jobs that may get eliminated, I don’t think many people are going to shed too many tears over the loss of these jobs given how poorly they pay and how crappy these jobs are. But as one more sign of where we might be headed — especially given that the tech involved in eliminating these jobs is pretty primitive — it doesn’t paint an optimistic picture.
For more details, check out this walk though of an Eat Box: