lifestyle

What’s it like to shop at FamilyMart’s first 'unmanned' convenience store in Japan?

27 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

On April 1, FamilyMart opened a new branch inside the Sapita Tower building, near Tokyo Station. Inside, you’ll see the sort of food and beverages you’d expect in a Japanese convenience store, but what you won’t see are any employees at the registers.

That’s because the shopping transactions are all done through a slick, unmanned system. The store, technically part of the slightly fancier Famima sub-brand, is located on the first floor, so we stopped by to check it out for ourselves.

mart.jpg

One difference you’ll notice right off the bat is that there’s a gate you pass through when entering the shop. As we stepped through, a recorded voice called out “Irasshaimase!”, the standard greeting shopkeepers in Japan give to customers.

▼ There’s also a sign explaining the purchasing process, so that you don’t end up waiting in front of the register for a clerk who’s never going to come.

signs.jpg

Once inside, the shelves look they would at any other Family Mart branch, with bento boxed lunches, onigiri rice balls, and bottles of coffee and tea.

drinks.jpg

The total selection isn’t quite as wide as it is at some FamilyMarts, but considering the compact floor space, that only makes sense. We noticed that no books or magazines are sold, but you can still get toiletries and face masks.

There actually is one FamilyMart employee on the premises, but just for shelf-stocking and customer inquiries. We knew this ahead of time, so we weren’t startled when we walked up to the register with our pouch of drinkable Morinaga In Protein gelatin and no human cashier was present. What did startle us, though, is that we didn’t have to scan anything. The terminal already knew what we had in our hand to buy, and it made an electronic peep to draw our attention to the screen, where the total amount to be paid was displayed.

Screen Shot 2021-04-04 at 11.29.31.png

You can pay with an IC e-money card, credit card, or, if you want to mix high and low-tech, cash.

▼ We’re not sure what payment is “coming soon,” though. Gold bars? Edo period-style koban coins? An AI-administered barter system?

Screen Shot 2021-04-04 at 11.34.11.png

Oh, and by the way, there’s also a gate you have to pass through in order to leave the store, and if you have an unpaid bill, it won’t open up until you settle your account.

So far, this is Family Mart’s only unmanned-purchase store in Japan, but now that the technology is possible, odds are we’ll be seeing more in the near future, maybe in conjunction with their remote-controlled VR robot program.

Shop information

Famima (Sapia Tower branch) / ファミマ(サピアタワー店)

Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-7-12, Sapia Tower 1st floor

東京都千代田区丸の内1丁目7-12 サピアタワー1F

Open 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

Website

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Remote-control VR robots to start working in Japanese convenience stores this summer

-- Super-enthusiastic convenience store clerk fights the man, continues serving the people

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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This is the future, like it or not

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To realise the potential of our incredible technology, capitalism must end.

It certainly can't stumble on in its current crazed form.

But beware, it will do anything to protect itself against the rights of the workers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I suspect the price will remain the same. It will just mean extra profit. I like to deal with humans and never use self checkout. I do not work for the store and not for free! I like putting my purchases on the belt and letting a cashier do the work, then pack them in paper sacks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unmanned stores concepts are nice and it may be convenient but most people still prefer to have some human interaction. But if products are a x factor cheaper because there are no extra cost as payments for employees it may be competing in the future.

10 years ago most people where not found of online shopping but nowadays online shopping is huge and still increasing.

Next step delivery by robots.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Personally, I will never use these stores nor will I scan my purchases and coins and notes are my preference...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Laguna Today  12:20 pm JST

Woulda been nice if the article informed how the register knew the quantities and identities of the purchase.

All products would have an RFID tag that scanners detect so the company can track inventory.

Not my cup of tea. Prefer to deal with people when I go shopping.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Are you kidding us again? Nothing is unmanned there, in contrary. You need more people than ever before, to program and manage all that, keep it running, also for security measures (1st floor) and of course last but not least anyone has to produce, transport the goods there and fill the shelves, take older things out and rearrange things if some customers take things out and put them back into wrong places , cleaning immediately when a red wine bottle falls down...and all such.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

well I’m not sure how the worker can actually own it unless they are self employed.

Workers can collectively own a business together. In the same way that you might pitch in with a friend to buy a good you both own, like a car, or a games console.

but like any self employed person, they can become behemoths, cutting costs, cutting workers, cutting workers rights.

Amazon, Uber, Deliveroo, all started small, even in a humble garage/car/bike,even the English teaching job which is just starting to see tech creep.

why pay a premium in Japan when you can get someone on the other side of the world to do it for 500 yen.

The tech is bought by company A and Sold to company B. Companies aren’t friend or social entities it has one purpose, to feed profit, and share holders.

workers can’t hold or own a. Machine if they are employed by a company.

Bottom line is Machines don’t pay taxes, don’t pay for pensions, don’t get sick, don’t need time off, can work 24/7 and can take your job away.

Yeah. These are all inevitable pressures of capitalism. When I said, "We need to fundamentally change how we think about work and ownership", I wasn't being funny.

The profit motive is destructive to individuals, societies, and our environment. You yourself note that the profit motive is the driving force towards automation making people's lives worse, when in a rational world, machines that can work for you without needing payment would make your life better.

To realise the potential of our incredible technology, capitalism must end.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Lazarus KnowsToday  02:21 pm JST

Did you miss the rest of my post? It was fairly long. I'm surprised you missed it.

What you say is correct - but it's correct because the machines are owned and produced by private capital, not by the workers.

well I’m not sure how the worker can actually own it unless they are self employed.

but like any self employed person, they can become behemoths, cutting costs, cutting workers, cutting workers rights.

Amazon, Uber, Deliveroo, all started small, even in a humble garage/car/bike,even the English teaching job which is just starting to see tech creep.

why pay a premium in Japan when you can get someone on the other side of the world to do it for 500 yen.

The tech is bought by company A and Sold to company B. Companies aren’t friend or social entities it has one purpose, to feed profit, and share holders.

workers can’t hold or own a. Machine if they are employed by a company.

Bottom line is Machines don’t pay taxes, don’t pay for pensions, don’t get sick, don’t need time off, can work 24/7 and can take your job away.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Did you miss the rest of my post? It was fairly long. I'm surprised you missed it.

What you say is correct - but it's correct because the machines are owned and produced by private capital, not by the workers.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

1( +1 / -0 )

Lazarus KnowsToday  01:43 pm JST

And, as a worker, I'd not be supportive of something that takes away people's jobs.

As a worker, I'd love to have automation make jobs easier, and shorter, or even obsolete.

When computers came out, we were going to be free from work, more free time, But all that happened was companies fired other workers(cut costs) and got one person to work full time. Still stressed and no more free time and no more money.

bus conductors. Buses got machines, and instead of the staff working part time, and having more free time, they too were retired/fired, for a profit, and the unemployed had more free time.

banks, tellers, replaced by a machine, staff had free time, because they were made redundant.

supermarket checkout.

reduce staff.

flight engineers are being replaced.

The list can go on but the bottom line is, we don’t have any more free time,(at least enjoyable) if we don’t have a job, and earn money.

companies don’t want to keep 20 workers when they can cut it by 50%, or make everyone work part time, and it isn’t enough to live on or the company is dodging something.

not everyone is a computer programmer, mechanical engineer.

The benefit of work, if anything, has shown to even more important during this pandemic.

friends, social interaction, support, getting out of a concrete box, laughing, relieving stress, money, self worth.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm sure someone will be around to explain to me, that workers can just drop everything, attend college, get a degree (or its equivalent here) and become a super information highway expert, or stocks and shares care bear. 

But not everyone wants that life.

Very true. It’s also worth adding that most don’t have the capacity to do that.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Amazon started unmanned convenience stores in 2018 in the US and they have been unsuccessful. I suspect that the surveillance necessary was just too creepy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

However, only if that automation is owned by the workers themselves, not private companies. Automation has the potential to free us from work. But as long as it is in the hands of the few, it will always be used against us, to put pressure on workers to work harder for less. We need to fundamentally change how we think about work and ownership.

Well said, you star!

There's probably a few things the auto colleague can't do, like clean out the jacks and jape and jest with the customer, be part of the community but... but yes, I hear you. It could be used to the advantage of the worker, so staff and punters get the best from it.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

And, as a worker, I'd not be supportive of something that takes away people's jobs.

As a worker, I'd love to have automation make jobs easier, and shorter, or even obsolete.

However, only if that automation is owned by the workers themselves, not private companies. Automation has the potential to free us from work. But as long as it is in the hands of the few, it will always be used against us, to put pressure on workers to work harder for less. We need to fundamentally change how we think about work and ownership.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

The food is processed beyond recognition, so why not take out human interaction altogether?

Yawn. Don’t eat it if you don’t like it. It really is that simple.

Does not bode well for the job market.

No, it doesn’t, particularly for the low paid.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I'm sure someone will be around to explain to me, that workers can just drop everything, attend college, get a degree (or its equivalent here) and become a super information highway expert, or stocks and shares care bear.

It doesn't really have to be all or none. The checkout kiosks could be used more at night so that workers could get home and sleep and make babies, or in areas where there are not enough customers to justify hiring staff, etc.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I guess it's down to trust and friendly faces.

In my former stomping grounds, it would be robbed blind.

And, as a worker, I'd not be supportive of something that takes away people's jobs.

I'm sure someone will be around to explain to me, that workers can just drop everything, attend college, get a degree (or its equivalent here) and become a super information highway expert, or stocks and shares care bear.

But not everyone wants that life.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I recently used self-checkout at Publix and Panera in the US and find it is easy and fast but it may be hard for older persons or handicapped persons so a clerk to help should be at hand.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

 We’re not sure what payment is “coming soon,” though. Gold bars? Edo period-style koban coins? An AI-administered barter system?

I don't see any option for payment by smartphone or smart watch. I imagine that would be coming soon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Woulda been nice if the article informed how the register knew the quantities and identities of the purchase.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cash does not belong there..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Getting there.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

That's hideous. BOYCOTT!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Boycott these kinds of stores or we will just be doing lower income people out of jobs to feed the fat cats even more.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Does not bode well for the job market.

Today convenience stores, tomorrow...

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The food is processed beyond recognition, so why not take out human interaction altogether?

Oh, that's right, the battery chicken comes from somewhere where people are cheaper than machines.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

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