Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Thursday, 24 April 2008

Spain Is Getting Automated

I went to the local supermercado today and they've just installed automated checkout counters. You can choose to have it speak to you in Spanish, English, German, or French (the ATMs give a dozen more choices) and the whole operation works very smoothly. The live checkout people didn't look too happy, though. Looks like some of them will soon be testing Spain's social safety net.

It probably won't kill too many jobs. They'll need a security guard to make sure people scan everything, and a customer service rep to help when things go wrong, or perhaps they'll skip the customer service rep and just let people struggle.

What it will help kill is the personal interaction you get in Spain. Granted, supermarkets are soulless places already, but one of the nice things about Spain is that the local shop owners get to know you. The guy who sells me coffee knows my favorites are Ethiopian and Ugandan. The guy who sells me frutos secos ("dried fruit" ie.: munchies of all types) asks me how to say things in English so he can repeat them to Julián. These things will fade with time. We've already lost the best cafe in the barrio, replaced by a Spanish chain, and the guy who owns the frutos secos is retiring and selling the business.

Almudena says Europe is ten years behind the U.S. when it comes to culture. I think it's more like twenty, but the bell is already tolling for business done the old way.

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