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News Roundup: Amazon Giving Up Retail Automation?

November 15, 2019 Updated: September 8, 2020

Amazon’s New Grocery Chain Abandons Unpopular Automation

Amazon confirmed this week that it will launch a new brick-and-mortar grocery chain in 2020, separate from Whole Foods. But the new grocery chain will use conventional checkout lanes, not the much-touted cashierless platform in Amazon Go stores.

This shift away from retail automation could be due to Amazon Go and its other physical retail locations continuing to lose money.

Amazon has also faced a wave of consumer backlash to its cashierless platform for the ways it discriminates against low-income shoppers who lack access to credit and banking. It remains to be seen, however, whether the shift will also include greater investments in customer service – which is what shoppers really value in grocery stores.

Artificial Intelligence is Learning our Prejudices

Google announced a brand-new “breakthrough” artificial intelligence technology called BERT, but it carries the same old prejudices as previous A.I. engines. Researchers are discovering that even the latest and greatest A.I. reinforces stereotypical gender roles. Right now, it’s a harmless error in a computer experiment, but what happens with A.I. is being used in hiring or as the basis for law enforcement.

“This is the same historical inequity we have always seen,” said one expert. “Now, with something like BERT, this bias can continue to perpetuate.”

Rise of Cashless Hits Minorities and Poor the Hardest

A new study from the U.K. is showing that almost one in five consumers would struggle in a transition to a cashless society. In the U.K., the closure of rural bank branches means that rural consumers are hardest hit. In the U.S., new research from Pew shows that minorities and poor consumers are the ones with the most to lose. It’s a timely reminder that “millions of consumers rely on cash to make purchases, either by necessity or by choice.”

Number of the Week: 40 Percent

That’s the number of in-person retail transactions in the U.S. that take place with cash. And 78 percent of people used cash in a transaction in the past month. While many companies claim the rise of cashless is coming, cash is still a huge part of America’s economy.

Any upcoming stories about the impact of automation on the retail industry and the economy?

If you’re interested in speaking with UFCW, email awhite@www.ufcw.org for a quote, statistics, or interviews with workers in retail and other sectors of the economy.

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