As Acme plans layoffs, self-checkout is a ready replacement

Acme Markets announced this week plans to lay off about 900 part-time employees in the Philadelphia region. As those layoffs loom, workers in grocery and convenience stores across the country are being pushed aside by little automated machines.

Paul Pavlou, an associate professor at the Fox School of Business and Management at Temple University, is familiar with the quandary: Use the self-checkout machine or go to the line with the worker?

Pavlou, who happened to be in a supermarket deliberating that very that question when contacted by a reporter, said there is no doubt that self-checkout machines mean fewer workers are needed.

“As we progress, as technology tries to simplify our lives, obviously we try to automate some tasks, some processes that previously humans used to do. So it’s a much bigger socioeconomic question,” he said. “And I can think of many examples over the last 5, 10, 20 years where similar things happened.”

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Pavlou said he finds it a luxury to have a store employee scan and bag his groceries. But he said if a store were to offer a 10 percent discount to go to a self-checkout machine, that would be a different question.

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