Visit to a cashier-less, employee-less convenience store in China

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And now Big Data knows you bought condoms.


They have " beer o’clock" in China? I gotta go now.

Because the real problem China is facing is not enough workers to fill their needs.


Ha, ha. They charged him 100,000 yuan for that pineapple lollipop. Ha, ha.

Probably a very bad idea to shoplift from that store.

A couple of years ago I stayed at a hotel in Brignoles that had no staff. It was … weird.

Obviously that’s not completely true: In the morning there was cleaning staff doing stuff, and some kitchen staff to prepare the breakfast buffet. But the check-in process was completely automated. You rock up to the door, interact with a kiosk-y thing, it tells you the room and spits out a key-card, then you’re good to go. It worked perfectly … but it was weird. It was like checking in to a ghost ship.

Brignoles is lovely though. I highly recommend it. There’s even an All Blacks store there, which on reflection is super weird.


Cashier-free stores are increasingly common; I went to one in Oslo years ago. In the US Dollar General stores are moving to a cashierless model. So-called “frictionless retail” is a natural evolution of self checkout.

Apparently in England there has been a spate of people switching bar codes so that avocados are charged at carrot prices.


That’s pretty old school…

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I’ll try not to ruin the Adams’ punchline while I share this:

I was in India a few years back, installing, customizing, and training operators on a large CNC machine to process large pipes (up 25m long, 3m dia, up to 100mm wall thickness… details fuzzy…) for supercritical steam generators. We used a touch probe to map the surface of the pipe; it could vary up to 200mm downwards (-Z axis for CNC nerds) between supports, and up to 100mm left and right of the theoretical centerline (+Y and -Y). We would then calculate a reasonably accurate path to follow the top dead center of the surface.

So the probe is critical to the machine’s production, and the plant is dependant on the CNC for virtually every pipe going through the plant. Downtime is very expensive, with potential fines if the machine doesn’t meet certain minumum throuput.

Long store short: operator mishandling of the probe resulted in a small crack in the body of the probe; it’s glass, so very delicate (thanks, Renishaw!). In the high humidity environment of West Bengal province, moisture was condensing in the inside surface of the glass; wouldn’t be long before the delicate electronics inside the body are wrecked. Production stops, and the pressure is intense to fix.

I dried the probe out in a large box of rice. Would have much preferred proper dissectant, but none to be had at the local market.

Then I applied Mr. Adams’ method. Seal probe with a condom. Poke a small hole in the tip, poke the stylus through hole, and roll up the probe body. Excellent fit, cheap as dirt, and the operators had or could get a replacement in seconds. I got immense pleasure of updating the machine’s maintenance manual and schedules to include an entry for checking and installing a new condom; suggested schedule: every 7 days, 80 operating hours, or 10,000 probe cycles.

So for a few months, as very large, expensive CNC machine in West Bengal, India ran with a condom on it’s probe. A couple of weeks production was saved.

They laughed at me when I first suggested it, but very jughaad of me, I think!


Ok, I haven’t watched the video yet so maybe this is addressed, but - you scan a QR code to unlock the door? A static QR code, printed on a sticker?

So - anyone, anywhere in the world, with an internet connection, can unlock the door?

Hard to tell from the video, but I’d guess that the QR scanner is built into an app that compares your GPS position to a database of store locations. The Chinese government probably sees the lack of privacy as a feature not a bug.

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:beers: :beers: :beers:

But if it runs on my phone, how can it trust the authenticity of the location data provided by my phone’s OS?

I guess it doesn’t really matter - i’m not really sure what the point of locking the door is.

My guess is that it may only allow one person into the store at a time, which greatly simplifies theft and payment (if someone leaves with a bunch of merch, just charge it to whoever’s “logged in” to the store.)


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