2013 March 28 Thursday
Walmart: Fewer Employees Per Store
Don't count on being able to get a job at WalMart when money runs low in your old age. A Businessweek article reports WalMart per-store employees have dropped by about 14% from 2008 to 2013. The claims about the consequences: Lower customer service satisfaction and too much inventory not getting moved out to store shelves from warehouse space.
WalMart could reduce the need for store employees to answer questions by using touch screen computers that people could interact with to get answers on where to find products. WalMart could use voice recognition technology to allow customers to ask questions and get answers to common questions without any employee involvement. They could also develop restocking robots. They already have self-serve check-out lanes. They could also use robotic floor cleaning robots. Another obvious step: use packaging and shelf designs that make shelf restocking easier.
What can lower IQ people do when the labor buyers no longer need them?
By Randall Parker at 2013 March 28 10:33 PM
How about a store we don't have to go into? We could place our orders online, and drive out to the Wal-Mart (which, let's be honest here, is nothing more than a warehouse anyway) and pick it up in a tidy bundle at a small reception area. In the back, an army of little robots picking little standard-sized boxes out of dispensers, wrapping them up them into a pallette, perfectly sized to fit two or three in the trunk of an average car. Frozen foods could be kept together so that they would last longer, fragile things like eggs would always be put on top. We could reduce packaging by getting rid of redundant boxing and bagging, getting rid of decorative outer boxes for things like cereal and crackers that serve no real purpose.
...What the HELL am I thinking? Efficiency in a consumer society?
The entire point of Wal-Mart is to get caught up in a torrent of consumption; the in-store TV system blares ads for every product, everyone around you has their carts loaded to the brim with frozen entrees and snack cakes. In my scheme, they couldn't control as many aspects of the experience. It'd be easier to say no to that second box of cupcakes when it's just a line-item on a web form. There's a reason Wal-Mart provides carts for people who are too fat to walk, and more up-scale stores don't. The raw acreage of this consumer paradise is hard to traverse when you've eaten as many of their products as they condition you to.
Modern consumerism is all about taking up as much of your time, money and life as possible. They want you to buy in, to commit to them, so that every drop of income you get goes directly to them. I can see them doing a LOT more with technology to further these goals.
I see a future Wal-Mart being much less convenient. It'll be bigger, have more intrusive ads, and more ways to cajole you into buying their products before you're mercifully allowed to leave.
The limiting factor on the size of Wal-Marts right now seems to be the distance people are willing to walk to reach the very back of the store. If they could take that out of the equation, for example by making some kind of shuttle mandatory, they could easily quadruple in size if not more. In order to shop there, you'll be forced to strap yourself onto your buggy, like an amusement park ride, while it motors you across a huge warehouse of products while asinine commercials blare at you from overhead TVs. They may even have animatronic cereal mascotts pimping their products to the kids in any empty space they can fit. A shopping trip, which in the 80's may have taken fifteen minutes and which now can take over two hours, may be drawn out into a several days long ordeal.
A major reason for this is putting items that consumers actually come in for, like eggs and milk at the back of the store, so that as you walk in you have to go past all the snack cakes, prepackaged goods etc… before you reach them, making an impulse buy more likely. With unlimited technology, they could make getting a gallon of milk take half a day. Hell, why stop at something that people only think they need like milk, why not put dentistry and medical care in there as well, such that in order to get to the emergency room, you have to buy several hundred dollars worth of pointless crap? Maybe they could pass a law that in order to be worthy of going to the hospital, you have to eat five subway sandwiches (since y'know, they're so healthy).
Wal-Marts could further cut costs by having all their manufacturing done on-site, buried underground, completely automated, accepting nothing but raw corn and turning out finished products directly to the retail space above. Feedlot operations could be contained inside, with farm animals never existing above the earth's surface before being turned into boneless barbecue wings or Jack Link's Jerkey.
I know this is a slapdash poorly-written diatribe on consumer culture but Wal-Mart is a "trigger" for me. It's disgusting.
I think Amazon and other on-line shopping will cut into Walmart sales over the coming years. You can order on Walmart's website and pick up at your nearest store. Lots of shopping will be done on-line a decade from now. Many of the big box retailers will get most of their business from internet shopping. Physical stores will slowly decline and disappear.
The exception is groceries and other daily items.
Your diatribe: Yet another set of ugly truths that need to be said. But you barely touched on ("too fat to walk") the demographics of Wal-Mart shoppers. One of the reasons Target is more appealing btw.
Online orders: I expect a shift toward same day delivery and already am getting offers for this service locally. No need to go to the store. As for Wal-Mart's opposition to goods pickup in a reception area: They'll lose that fight to retailers who are willing to do pickup.
I see online as creating a dividing line: Smart people who plan ahead do more online shopping. Dumber, lazier, and more impulsive people will spend more in stores.
Disgusting Wal-Mart: Yes, I prefer Target. It is more congenial, calmer.
On the bright side: The people at Wal-Mart are more heavily concentrated there than at Target.
Physical stores have a future for unforeseeable immediate needs and for those who have short attention spans and need for immediate gratification.
New technologies make sense just as "Zeitgeist M.F." claims it to be true, so I agree with the film. The problem lies in some people wanting to have power on other people. Hopefully in the future most power-hungry assholes will get the same sadistic orgasm by having power only on robots.
Wal-Mart started to depress me too much when I would go at 11:30 pm on a school night and see women there with three or four kids crying because they were so tired.
"What can lower IQ people do when the labor buyers no longer need them?"
Cannon fodder for a world war to distract us from what the elites have wrought? Not saying I'm in favor of the plan, just that I think that's the plan.