Greetings from the Future

Published March 2, 2019

I just learned that Walmart is eliminating the “greeter” at its stores. While this may not rank up there with the death of Toys R Us in the retail apocalypse, it is another very visible sign of change. It’s also another potential job out the window for old farts like me who can’t afford to retire yet but have lost the urge to do any more real work.

My tongue is firmly in my cheek, as there are few jobs I’d enjoy less than having to smile and greet shoppers entering Walmart. Being friendly and personable while handing a cart to hundreds of people as they walk in the door is a lot to ask of a crotchety introvert like me. But crotchety or not, I lament the extinction of the greeter as another way the retail world continues to depersonalize.

Gone are the days of spending your Saturday afternoon browsing a record store. Online shopping has been supplanting brick-and-mortar shopping for a while now. The stores that remain keep trying to get more people to use self-checkout. Amazon Go recently opened a totally cashier-less convenience store in Chicago.

You would think that for introverts like me, this would be paradise. Not having to deal with people is something I have no trouble dealing with. But it also feels like we’re heading toward a Twilight Zone episode. In addition to losing the greeter position, WalMart is rolling out robot janitors as well. No shit, they’re introducing mini Zamboni-like machines to mop the floors instead of humans. The company that makes them is a San Diego-based startup called Brain Corporation.

Hey, how about robot greeters? Have they thought of that? Cue the Twilight Zone music, and stay tuned.