We’ve written about the encroachment of machines into the workforce previously. From fast food kiosks to the advent of workplace computers, the march of technology remains constant. This week we learned that Schnuck’s in Saint Louis has roaming robots to check stock on the shelves and verify prices.
Maryland Heights-based Schnuck Markets, which operates 100 stores in five states, on Monday will begin testing its first Tally at its store at 6600 Clayton Road in Richmond Heights. The pilot test is expected to last six weeks. A second Tally will appear in coming weeks at Schnucks stores at 1060 Woods Mill Road in Town and Country and at 10233 Manchester Road in Kirkwood.
The race between man and machine is a fixture of popular culture, from John Henry to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. In most stories, robots represent the movement of technology replacing man: of cheaper, stronger, more efficient labor. It’s not surprising then that in most folklore, the machines are depicted as sinister. But that isn’t the case for consumers.
All of this is an effort by producers to provide better, faster and cheaper service, and to that end it is a good thing because it drives down prices for everyone. It should be a wake-up call to activists who think they can affect positive social change merely by increasing the minimum wage—in which only a few benefit at the cost of many. Making labor more expensive not only makes technology more attractive, but it puts smaller businesses who cannot afford the investment in technology at a competitive disadvantage.