Thursday 7 October 2021

How technology is changing retail shopping

Self-service bagging errors

The march of technology is quite inexorable, and it is quite noticeable in retail stores. You are somewhat caught unawares by the developments, for instance, self-service checkouts were introduced in The UK when I lived in the Netherlands.

I had bought some goods in the Sainsbury’s local store when I realised, I was in a self-service queue unschooled about where to place my basket or the scanned goods. “Unexpected item in Bagging Area.” The till screamed, until a member of staff came to help.

Now, supermarket self-service checkouts are commonplace that you only consider manned checkouts for volume purchases or where a branch has not installed the self-service systems.

Touch and be fleeced

I was also late to the contactless payment inception, as my bank card did not have the feature, I had to apply for a new card and with that a change to my debit card number which I had memorised and the addition of the contactless payment feature. Just the ease with which money can be extracted from your account without additional verification like a PIN.

Courtesy of SuitsMe (The anatomy of a debit card.)

At present we can pay up to £45 for purchases and this contactless feature can be activated in you mobile banking app if your mobile phone has Near-field Communication (NFC). This limit is to be raised to £100 and that must bring security implications as it presents a lucrative angle for criminality. The possibility that air raiders might have kit to swipe money off your card and out of your account by walking by.

Maybe, one has to consider electromagnetic interference shielded wallets to shield cards as added security as the limits get increased without the need for user verification.

Bin for totals

Then, a few weeks ago, I stepped into Uniqlo where I have never shopped to get some thermal underwear for my sister. I saw no checkout tills or counters until I was pointed in the direction of receptacle bins and advised to throw all the purchases into the bin. The total cost came up automatically that I was too taken aback to consider what technology was at play. I was both amused and impressed.

It was when I was at Decathlon in Leeds that I had more of a presence of mind, you had to fill the bin in one go, basically pour your shopping basket into the bin, and watch the screen total up the cost of your purchases. This was exploiting Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology which is used to identify and track objects first against theft by shoplifters and now if you can identify the object, why not add the price too? Primark, get up and going, those queues are so last century.

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