Following the installation of self-service checkouts some years ago, a store in North Shields has decided to go one stage further. The EasySave Megamart has eight such checkouts, although supervisors were always on hand to help customers use them. Now, to further reduce staff costs, these supervisors have been replaced by Robo-Assist, a 'robotic assistant' that can come to a shopper's aid if they are unable to use the checkout.

The store says that customers who experience problems using the self-service checkouts, but who are unable to use Robo-Assist, need not worry. There will be a senior supervisor to help, although the plan is for this senior supervisor to ultimately be replaced by a user-friendly touch screen information panel.

The company has not said what advice they would give to people who have problems using the self-service checkouts, are unable to use Robo-Assist and also find themselves bewildered by the user-friendly touch screen information panel. Probably shop somewhere else, we would imagine.

Such eventualities apparently do not concern the owners of the EasySave Megamart, who are pressing forward with their plans to develop what they call a 'completely automated shopping experience'. In addition to the self-service checkouts, they already have robotic shelf stackers and automatic trolley park attendants. They dismiss any suggestion that a completely automated store is impossible. After all, they reason, three years ago they replaced the manager with a sandwich toaster and as far as they can tell, nobody appeared to notice.

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