Title: Effects of Self-Service Technology on Supermarket Employment
1. Introduction 3
2. Historical Context 3
3. Labour Process Theory 3
4. Prosthesis and Aesthesis 5
4.1. Prosthetic 5
4.2. Aesthetic 6
5. Conclusion 6
In supermarkets, self-service checkouts are becoming normalised in an industry where businesses focus on a constant drive to increase efficiency and lower costs. The service was introduced in the 1980s and was designed to reduce employees and therefore eliminate their costs, increase the speed of shopping in reducing check-out time and lower the space required for check-out services. However, research and analysis has shown that people still aren’t comfortable with self-service checkouts, with one 2014 poll finding that ’93% of people’ disliking them (BBC, 2017).
This essay will be looking at the effects of self-service checkouts in UK supermarkets, looking specifically at the relationship with employment. The issue of machines replacing humans is not just an issue for workers in supermarkets but industries such as ‘Law, Financial Services, Education and Medicine’. The Sloan School of Management predicts that there will be far lower prospects for employees as a result (Rotman, 2013).
The essay will be divided into four points. The first, will give the contextual history of self-service checkouts, which will be key in analysing the impact later. In the next section I will discuss the labour process theory discussing its links to Marxist thinking and capitalism. Finally I will look at technology as a prosthesis and aesthesis analysing the specific effects of the self-service checkout.
2. Historical Context
Traditional grocers are completely different to modern supermarkets. The first self-service store was made in 1917 in Memphis, Tennessee (Dixon Object Analysis, 2018). The first store went by the name ‘Piggly Wiggly’ (Eschner, 2017) The idea was that instead of customers going to the counter and choosing the products as they had done in the past, followed by the grocer looking for, and finding all the products, the customer could go and find the products and pick those for themselves. This enabled shops to offers more products with different varieties.
In 2011, the Independent published an article regarding Britain’s complete overhaul of the method of shopping, with Retail Banking Research analysis suggesting that ‘15,000 self-checkout tills will be in operation in the UK by the end of this year’ (Independent, 2011). This was twice the number in use in 2009. Originally called “service robots” designed by Dr Howard Schneider, they have become increasingly popular and as of 2009, a total of 6.5 million of Tesco transactions, equating to 25% of total sales, were done on automated tills each week. (Sabadus, 2009)
3. Labour Process Theory
Labour Process Theory analyses how within capitalism the workers of a society are essentially operated and owned by th...