Romeriksdebatten, Daily Goods | I do all the work for them for free and get punished if I make a mistake

Romeriksdebatten, Daily Goods |  I do all the work for them for free and get punished if I make a mistake

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An English-language post that has been thriving on social media for a long time has resurfaced in Norwegian newspapers for a while. It is specifically about the suspicion of express or self-service checkouts. The sender has some points. He believes he is being forced into “this nonsense,” and has absolutely no desire to prove that he did the job at the store correctly. “If you want me to be a tiller with no training, that's your problem, not mine.”

Bad day

A colleague was taken to the back room of a grocery store because he forgot to register a plastic bag. This was before the hefty environmental price of NOK 4.25 was introduced. The customer's host must have been in a very bad mood that day.

Few people are shoplifters, but it is easy to make mistakes. It's easy when the goods have a barcode and the annoying loud beep comes on automatically, but it's not always easy to find fruit and bread products in bulk at Meny and Mega with a large selection. “You handed in the wrong kind of list – go straight to jail.”


Not many countries can have self-service payments. In Norway, where the Protestant ethic of duty is still strong, this is possible. The system is built on trust. But trust fades. Some Coop stores have started with cameras and screens that film you as you scan the merchandise yourself. There's no recording, but it sure seems protective when a client sees themselves in the “mirror” and thinks Big Brother is seeing you.

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The problem of loss has forced this, and some stores have also chosen to close their self-service outlets as there is too much fraud. In contrast to old-fashioned shoplifting, where a case of a pint of beer being discovered in the waistband is discovered, the customer can now blame user error when she forgot to scan a package of long tenderloin at NOK 590 per kilo. The loss escalated with expensive times and food queues. People can afford less.


Resistance to self-checkouts has been significant since the first payments appeared: No, thanks, I don't work here! But many also see the advantage of skipping long checkout lines and being able to buy as many caramels as possible for the weekend without feeling guilty in front of the cashier. Surveys show that we buy more unhealthy snacks and snacks when we can wipe them down ourselves and put them in the bag before anyone sees them. However, the fingerprint ID button registered to purchase alcohol has been removed. It did not prevent drunk people from getting beer or sides.

I like that the store I shop at has some payment services. When you still have to wait for a couple of light beers to be checked out, I prefer the cashier. With the basket full, it's also impractical to scramble to the small tables at self-service checkouts. The chances of making mistakes and ending up in the box are much greater.

Practical and impractical

In stores where people shop in bulk, such as Rema and Kiwi, there is almost no self-service. The reason is simple: cashiers withdraw a basket worth a thousand kroner in a minute or two. The same customer will spend 20 minutes at the self-service checkout. However, at Mega and Meny, where people like to go buy lunch, or choose a range of more exclusive items than in more boring stores, this is practical.

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Automation and digitalization are taking more and more jobs, but they are also creating new ones. Merchants themselves believe that faster checkouts do not result in fewer employees, but instead get more diverse work tasks.

But development is all about working as efficiently as possible. In earlier times, labor was the most important capital for businesses. Today, it is usually profitable to run a store with as few employees as possible.

Jobs are disappearing

The spinning jenny, the first spinning machine in England in 1764, became a symbol of the Industrial Revolution. The invention, or job stealer if you will, replaced 25 women in the stingrays and led to tremendous growth in the textile industry. With innovations like the steam engine, we have made new quantum leaps decade after decade. With digitalization, everything moved very quickly. We have seen existing business models become irrelevant almost overnight. Just ask Kodak.

The forces opposing globalization and the digital revolution are strong, especially among the older guard, but the battles are doomed to be lost. Just think about what has happened to banks, post offices, travel agencies and other over-the-counter services in recent decades. It will be interesting to see what merchandise trading will look like in 20-30 years. How many bodily functions will artificial intelligence replace? People shop online, and robots find products in fully automated warehouses. They pack, scan and ship. The OECD estimates that 40 percent of Norwegian jobs today will disappear as a result of technological development. However, old workplaces are being replaced by new ones.

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Go back time

Meanwhile, there are individuals making money by going back in time. In the Netherlands, there is a chain that bets on “slow funds” or rather “talking funds”. Boxes are ticked. Adult people meet staff who take the time to chat about the trade. “How are you?” Here there is no stress of impatient checkout queues. There is something beautiful and moving about it. For many single people, a visit to the grocery store is the important social event of the day. Maybe the only thing. For them, a quick exit is a very poor alternative.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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