Amazon’s Supermarket Sounds Like My Personal Hell

Amazon’s Supermarket Sounds Like My Personal Hell

I am, by far away, the worst kind of shopper. I pick things up. I put them down. I walk away and repeat the process about 40 times. I wander up and down the aisles because I had no idea what I wanted before I walked in.

And that’s fine, because cans of fruit and tins of instant coffee don’t give a shit how many times I lift them off the shelf. But Amazon’s grand vision for a supermarket does care.

It’s called Amazon Go, and it’s basically Amazon Does Coles/Woolworths. Located in Seattle and open to the public from early next year – it’s only open to Amazon employees right now – it’s a smart supermarket that relies on machine learning, smartphones and various bells and whistles to track what people do while they shop.

The tracking isn’t for targeted ads as such, but more to eliminate queues. As items are taken off the shelf, they’re added to your virtual Amazon cart and you’re automatically billed as soon as you leave the store. If you put an item back on the shelf, it’s removed from your cart. Change your mind, and it’s added back on.

In other words, people like me would accidentally stress test the living shit out Amazon Go. And, having seen this, you’ll probably get a raft of shoppers just moving stuff from shelf to shelf just to see whether it works. And you can’t discount the paranoia factor: is Amazon going to accidentally bill me because I picked up a can, checked the nutritional requirements and then decided on something else? It’ll be interesting to see how the refunds procedure would work, even for regular supermarket woes like ring-pulls breaking and so forth.

What’s cool, and something more inner-city Australians are becoming accustomed to, is the part in the video where Amazon is clearly trying to push food prepared by in-house chefs. Woolworths and Coles already do a bit of that, or at least provide the illusion of doing so. Amazon hasn’t provided any specifics yet, but there might also be a tracker or RFID chip in the food packaging that tracks when items are pulled on and off shelves.

The concept is cool, even if the practicality of it sounds like a waking nightmare for horror shoppers like me. It’s only starting out in Seattle, but with Amazon setting up physical stores here from next year an Australian expansion certainly isn’t out of the realms of possibility.


  • It takes a bit of rigmarole, but do read that AFR link buried in the Giz link.

    There’s a quote in there about how aggressive Amazon/Americanisation in general will probably get (as if it wasn’t already).

    “Your margin is our opportunity.”

    The old chest-nut of paying that little bit extra for (or at) local retailers to keep themselves in business, despite the loss leading and endless price slashing the big corporate fish pride themselves on is going to come to a head with Amazon coming here.

    But yeah, I am the same kind of shopper as Alex.

    Additionally, I’m the poor bugger you see with a list he doesn’t understand and is scared shitless he’s got nothing but the wrong brand of EVERYTHING.

    Really they don’t need to pay staff to rotate the stock because I do enough of that with my trolley load FOR FREE.

  • You are the worst kind of shopper.

    Me? If I’m helping my GF shop I maintain a slow walking pace, she has to keep up or fall behind in indecision.
    If it’s just me, I have a previous lap record to beat around the supermarket.

    • Yeah, I have a plan, know what I want and get in and out of the supermarket as quickly as possible.

      I would be in immense pain shopping with you Alex. It would drive me insane.

      I hope they don’t do the Woolies/Coles thing of starting off with a wide range, then ratcheting down.
      Why do I need a choice of 6 different plain flours, when they only stock their own crappy brand of lemon juice, and no others. 8 different brands of Arborio rice, but no carnaroli or vialone nano or Baldo. They do this on everything, so you end up with a lot of aisles, with very little genuine range or choice.

  • Sounds great to me. Most of the supermarkets here (I live in Seattle) haven’t discovered self-checkout yet so you have to stand in interminably long lines at times. I’ve probably spent longer in the checkout queue than I have browsing the stores in some cases. Fixing that would be amazing.

      • I am totally spoiled by self-checkout. I actually relish the task of organising the items inside my cooler bags in Tetris-like slotting perfection. Whenever for one reason or another I have to let a cashier check me out, I actually get close to breaking down with the jives when I see him/her putting haphazardly 3 items per bag until they have to start using additional plastic bags. *shudder*

  • I’m one of those weird people who likes things like going grocery shopping. One of the worst parts (aside from parking in busy times) is the checkout. If I can eliminate that, my obsession with improving my efficient green grocery shop (EGGS), I can not only save time, but give myself a weird little moment of satisfaction.

  • They do know a chef is a trade? If it’s made by a robot on steam production line. That’s not being made by a chef.

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