Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Will Amazon Eat Grocery Stores?

Via The Passive Voice, this post by Karen Webster at Seeking Alpha: Will Amazon Eat Grocery Stores for Lunch?

[T]he combination of the Amazon Go app, a turnstile at the entrance/exit, deep learning and sensors all enable a cashier-less, counter-less checkout experience for the consumer. When said consumer leaves the store, the items she purchased will be charged to her Amazon account, and a digital receipt will itemize all of what she bought.

Click through and read the whole thing for an explanation of how this works.

I’m pretty pleased with the self-check-out lanes at stores now, but I can see a rapid and painless transition to Amazon’s no-check-out-at-all model. Painless as far as the consumer is concerned, I mean. What an idea.

I will add that one biiig reason this post caught my attention is that after my REALLY REALLY ANNOYING recent experiences trying to get someone at AT&T to talk to me — rather than their utterly useless automated system — I would LOVE to see Amazon eat phone companies for lunch. LOVE IT. This is perhaps not the attitude many extant companies would prefer their customers to have, so let me suggest that such companies might consider IMPROVING THEIR EXPLETIVE-DELETED CUSTOMER SERVICE in order to forestall a stampede of customers the minute another option becomes available.

I never did get through to AT&T, btw. But the problem with my phone line might have fixed itself, so I guess maybe someone else with more patience or skill managed to actually inform AT&T that there was a problem. Whoever that person was, I’m grateful to them.

I suppose the way to drag this post back around to the ostensible point is to add: I wonder if Schnooks and so on are planning to at least develop a ready-to-deploy technology of their own or whether they plan to just roll over and die if Amazon’s new model proves out? I don’t think existing companies are usually very good at innovation, but we’ll see.

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7 Comments Will Amazon Eat Grocery Stores?

  1. Mike S.

    My impression (from both news and personal experience) is that the phone companies are reducing support for landlines in part in the hopes that they die on the vine. They have legal obligations to support them (not least because of rural areas like yours whose broadband service may be poor or nonexistent). But they’ve been trying to replace it piecemeal for years, and certainly want to encourage anyone who will to drop it in favor of VoIP or mobile.

    We’d been on the bubble of canceling our landline for a while– I wanted the reliability and disaster resistance it offered, but they’d jacked up the price to the point where our voice line cost substantially more than our Internet did. Due to maintenance cutbacks, that disaster resistance isn’t what it once was. And anyway, given that most corporations and governments have switched to VoIP, who will you call?

    (For a while, our building entry system required a landline, but that ceased to be the case this year.)

    But inertia kept us paying AT&T till this summer, when I picked up the phone and heard no dial tone. Then, when I called, I got a recording saying that no one could answer my call till weekday business hours. (And the documentation suggested that they’d try to pin the problem on the building wiring, for which they’re not responsible.)

    That did it. I migrated the number via a somewhat Rube Goldberg method, and now it’s on a VoIP provider that charges half as much per year as I was paying per month to AT&T, and rings my cell phone (if I want) along with the house phones.

    (Which means that I can at least still get calls during an internet outage– though of course a lengthy blackout will shortly also take out the cell towers.)

    Obviously, that works better in an urban area with mostly reliable Internet and cell service. Whether there’s decent rural alternative to landlines is another question.

  2. Rachel

    Well, deliberately trying to make service suck would explain a lot. But first, as you say, cell service is unreliable out here; and second, when one of my girls is pregnant, I must send time-sensitive medical data over the landline several times a day, so I would need it just for that anyway.

    I will really let someone at AT&T have it if the on-again-off-again dial tone thing starts up again — that’s what was going on last weekend. If I have to write an actual physical letter excoriating their service, I will be happy to do that. Which is actually a pretty entertaining idea and perhaps I will just do that anyway.

  3. Mike S.

    While it probably couldn’t hurt to call the Public Service Commission if AT&T doesn’t resolve it quickly, apparently AT&T has been pretty successful in Missouri at getting their obligations relaxed. They’re no longer the carrier of last resort at all in three urban counties, and the PSC’s authority over them has apparently been substantially curtailed throughout the state. http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/watchdog/2014/07/28/ask-watchdog-answering-landline-complaints/13301829/

    I wish I had better news. I understand why the companies want to dump circuit-switched technology. Customers are leaving in droves, and they’re left trying to cover an aging system in increasing need of maintenance with plummeting revenues. But I fear that in the near term we’re looking at a more capable but scarily less robust and reliable communications infrastructure than we had.

  4. Mike S.

    I hate to ask it given my many painful struggles with Comcast, but is cable an option? (Even if it’s less reliable than AT&T-that-was, it might be more so than AT&T in its cupro delenda est phase.)

  5. Pete Mack

    I have a landline, but it’s not rigged for phone: it’s DSL only. I’d really hate to have to get cable as a replacement: that has even worse service than phone companies.

  6. Evelyn Hill

    I’d kept my landline because in case the electricity went out, I could still use the phone in an emergency. But then they “upgraded” my neighborhood with a new Fiber Optic network and voila! When the power goes out, so does the landline.

  7. Mike S.

    Yeah– and by all accounts Verizon has been even more aggressive migrating people to fiber in the territory where it controls the landlines. To the point that they’ve instructed repair techs not to repair copper at all– it’s fiber or nothing.

    Some places have required the phone company to provide a UPS battery backup to customers (and of course the customer can just go ahead and buy one if they don’t). But that only provides eight hours or so of backup power vs. the days that the copper network could stay up in a blackout.

    (Similarly, some cell towers have backup batteries, but for hours, not days.)

    They try to sell it as an upgrade in reliability and clarity. Clarity is at least possible. (There are better audio encoding schemes than standard phone service uses, which some VoIP and cell vendors offer.)

    But while I’m sure it’s much more reliable on their end (much less maintenance and staff needed to keep it running), they’re running up against the fact that the copper network has been ridiculously reliable from the consumer perspective for decades.

    Unless phone outages were more common than power outages (and I’ve never run into anyone for whom that’s the case), it’s really hard for it to be a reliability improvement for the customer.

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