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UFCW Scolds Amazon for Dropping Checkout Stands, Clerks

E-commerce giant has received some harsh words from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, the largest union representing grocery store workers, for opening a new format that drops checkout lines and cashiers altogether.

In a statement shared by The Seattle Times, Marc Perrone, international UFCW president, said Amazon “believes America’s hardworking men and women are irrelevant to customers,” and that “they couldn’t be more wrong.”

“Amazon is masking its blind greed as progress,” the UFCW’s Perrone said, adding, “This is not about improving customer experience: It’s about destroying good jobs, with no regard to the families and communities impacted. This is not the America that hardworking families want and deserve.”

The new format, which debuted in Seattle and opens to the public early next year, allows patrons to check in via a mobile app, grab the products they want, and walk out of the store while paying for their purchase via the app. The format is made possible by the same technology used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. The Just Walk Out technology integrated into the store automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to shelves, and keeps track of the items in a virtual cart.

But although the Seattle-based company is dropping one position, it’s intending to fill plenty of others at its new stores. Employees will work both the kitchen and the store, preparing food, greeting and helping customers, and stocking shelves.

“Getting rid of checkout lines is great for customers, and our associates are great for customers, too,” Amazon said in a statement shared by the newspaper.

Since unveiling the new format earlier this week, critics have offered mixed opinions. However, many agree that whether it's a success or failure, the new format will prove to be a game-changer for the grocery industry.

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