Although the humanities major wouldn't tell me how much she was being paid, one of the plentiful security guards told me he was making Seattle's minimum wage. Then, sensing the irony of an employee-free store requiring so many employees, the security guard explained that this was just for now, to help customers get used to something new, and that hopefully, in the future, his job wouldn't exist at all.
To walk in, I took the unique QR code that Amazon had sent to my smartphone and scanned it at a smooth, gleaming, white turnstile. A green "go " appeared, and off I went. According to Amazon, "computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning" would then allow me to be charged for anything I pulled off the shelves.
I began by grabbing a stack of Macrina Bakery chocolate-chip cookies that were in a clear bag tied with a green ribbon. Then I grabbed a tin of Newman's Own Organics wintergreen mints. I walked around the store, watching shoppers taking photos and videos. I passed mugs on sale for $5.99 that explained what I was supposed to do next: "JUST WALK OUT." I put the mints back. Then I left, closely following the "JUST WALK OUT" instructions.
A few minutes later, I checked the digital receipt sent to my app. I found that, yes, my bodily movements and outward expressions of inner desire had been tracked closely enough that I could be charged for the cookies ($6.99) but not the mints ($1.99).
The cookies were delicious, by the way. But at the bottom of the bag was a shiny, silvery, metallic-seeming something. I wondered if I should let it in my house. I fished it out, ready to find a tracking device, but instead found only a silvery piece of cardboard that was acting as a cookie pedestal and (as far as I could tell) nothing more. The machines are even smarter than one imagines.