Unmanned 'Smart' Stores Threaten Minimum-Wage Jobs

  • By Chae Sung-jin

    July 21, 2017 12:59

    Unmanned "smart" stores and vending machines are threatening minimum-wage jobs as the government is poised to raise the minimum wage to W10,000 an hour over the next three years (US$1=W1,127).

    Superstore chain Homeplus has already been offering self-checkout since 2005 and now operates about 390 terminals in 90 stores nationwide where customers scan their own products, choose payment options such as cash or a credit card and make the payment.

    As a result Homeplus has laid off an estimated 400 staff.

    Convenience store franchise 7-Eleven has now launched a flagship smart store on the 31st floor of the Lotte World Tower in Seoul. Customers simply place their purchases on a checkout counter for automated scanning regardless where the barcode is attached.

    Customers order at a self-service terminal in a McDonald's in Seoul on Tuesday.

    Baskin-Robbins started the test operation of an ice cream vending machine at its store in Hannam-dong, Seoul in May. "We started running the machine to reduce waiting time and create additional sales after the store is closed," said a staffer at the company.

    Fast-food chain Lotteria uses self-service terminals in 560 of 1,355 stores nationwide, and McDonald's in 190 of 440 stores. Customers place their order by simply touching the screen and it takes less than a minute from choosing their order to making the payment.

    "We thought we'll be able to increase sales by reducing time for taking orders and save labor costs," a Lotteria staffer said.

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