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Amazon Opens Revolutionary Whole Foods With Technology That Could Make More Than 3 Million U.S. Jobs Obsolete

The new store is using technologies similar to that of self-driving cars.

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The first Whole Foods utilizing cashierless technology opened its doors earlier this week, making register-free shopping a reality for customers at the 21,500-square-foot store located in Washington D.C., Axios reports.

Amazon, the grocery chain's parent company, has been developing its "Just Walk Out" system, which allows customers to load their carts and leave without interacting with a cashier at a traditional checkout stand, since at least 2016. Its Amazon Go stores, approximately 1,200-square-feet and 2,300-square-feet in size, use the same cashierless technology, as does the tech giant's 25,000-square foot Amazon Fresh location, which opened last year in Bellevue, Washington.

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The cashierless experience is made possible with cameras, sensors and software that track people and products in the store — it's similar to the technology used in self-driving cars. To opt out of a checkout interaction altogether, customers simply scan a QR code from their Amazon or Whole Foods app, their palm or an Amazon-linked debit or credit card when they enter the store. Afterward, they're free to fill their baskets and walk out the door. At this time, customers still have the option of self-checkout lanes, where cash, gift cards and supplemental nutrition program benefits are accepted.

In the long run, grocery stores across the globe will likely turn to Amazon's cashierless shopping experience. Although social-distancing measures mandated by the pandemic no doubt accelerated the interest in cashierless models, senior vice president of retail innovation for Mastercard Stephane Wyper told TechHQ, "Even prior to COVID, the evolution of frictionless experiences is something we were seeing retailers investing in and testing already. Based on the demand we're seeing, we expect this to grow and expand. It's not just about the U.S.; we see it as a global trend."

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Ultimately, the rise of cashierless models will also impact a huge segment of the U.S. workforce. Though Amazon and Whole Foods announced in September that their cashierless stores will employ a number of team members comparable to that of similarly sized stores, other grocery stores might gravitate towards this technology because of its ability to cut labor costs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for cashiers is expected to decrease by 10% between 2020 and 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8%.

President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Marc Perrone warned of the technology's potential consequences, saying, "Amazon Go is … eliminating a job that's currently held by more than 3 million Americans. Corporations must understand that a functioning society does not exist unless there are jobs for hard-working people to earn a living, support a family and build a better life."

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