Amazon grocery store with ‘Just Walk Out’ automation was actually supported by 1,000 workers in India who monitored purchases

In 2016, Amazon touted the miraculous automation technology of its grocery stores that allowed people to “Just Walk Out,” but the company has since admitted that it was supported by 1,000 live workers in India.

About half of the Amazon Fresh stores in the U.S. utilized the Just Walk Out program, but the company now says that it will phase it out in favor of a high-tech cart that includes a scanner screen.

The behemoth company’s decision was first reported by the Information.

Amazon spokesperson Carly Golden said that customers told them they wanted to see a running total of the cost of their items as they shopped.

Some customers reported on social media that it would take hours for their receipts to arrive after they left the Amazon Fresh stores. As it turns out, the delay was caused by their live workers in India reviewing video in order to ensure that customers were being charged for the correct items.

“In theory it’s all automatic, but I would not be surprised if there are human checks going on too,” posted Dan Barker in 2021 on social media.

“I’d mentioned my receipt arrived 2 hours after my visit,” he added. “I can’t think of a reason that would happen, with Amazon who are very ‘realtime’, unless 1) there’s some extraordinary heavy computer processing going on that can’t be done realtime, b) there’s some sort of human check.”

One analysis from 2022 found that 700 out of 1,000 purchases needed to be reviewed by human workers, but Amazon disputes that claim and says it was only helping train the machine-learning model.

Some critics pointed out that Amazon merely replaced high-paying jobs in the U.S. with low-paying jobs in India.

“As it turns out, Amazon’s AI Just Walk Out Stores were just a PLOY to get more customers to shop at its stores while actively UNDERCUTTING the local job market,” responded one detractor on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“AI might just be an underpaid, overworked Indian virtual worker,” read another reply.

“How insanely dystopian,” said Democratic strategist Max Burns.

“Unreal and dystopian. I was one of the very first internal beta customers and I guess they just…lied to customers? It feels very weird now knowing real humans were live viewing your every move,” said another critic.

The Just Walk Out technology will still be used in Amazon Fresh stores in the United Kingdom and in certain ballparks in the U.S.

Here’s a parody about the Amazon stores:

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