New Self-Monitoring Screens at QFC Push Yet Another Job onto Customers: Loss Prevention Officer



I don't think that you can make this analogy. Self-check out stations or cashiers are a part of the normal shopping experience that applies to everyone (we all need to pay for what we are buying, be it through a cashier or through a robot). So yes, in a sense we are now performing that bit of labor ourselves. The theory would be that by reducing labor costs, prices are held down in a competitive environment. That may be true, or perhaps greedy grocery owners are pocketing the difference and buying a better grade of Scotch to sip on their yachts.

But shoplifting prevention is different. Most of us (hopefully) are not shoplifters. Whatever loss prevention systems are in place are to deter or detect the actions of a few. The monitors are in no way asking us to watch our fellow shoppers and call out, stop, or detain those who are stealing (whether they be unfortunates who are forced to steal by the cruel forces of naked capitalism, or upper-middle class kleptomaniacs who steal for the thrill of it). No, the purpose of the monitor is to remind the potential thief that he or she is being watched and will likely be caught. No duty whatsoever is placed on the honest shopper, and this system requires no effort or labor from those of us who come to shop but not to steal.


This week in "What Will Crash the Stock Market (and End Capitalism, This Time I Promise)," with Charles Mudede:

Charlie pretends he's a raccoon.


I prefer a monitor than a plains closed guard brushing by me or glowering at me from a close distance while I am grocery shopping. As an law abiding shopper, it bugs the poop out of me to have cops in my face while engaging in innocuous behavior and if monitors reduce their presence, I'm all for them.


Has Charles not been inside a convenience store or gas station in the past 25 years?


Try Wholes Foods then, apparently they have a better class of customer so did not need to monitor them as much.



If you accept that money, as the cliche goes, does not grow on trees, then you must also accept that profit has to come from somewhere, it is not magically created from the thin blue air. Capitalism has three major players- worker, owner, and customer. For the owner to derive profit, it must be taken from either the customer or the worker. In the case of the latter, one merely pays the worker less money than the value of his work. In the former, one price gouges, or gets the customer to do the work of the worker, only for free.

Technology is merely a device for accomplishing one or both of these goals. Self-checkout lanes on the one hand replace the worker entirely by making the customer do the labor of the worker, and without paying them for that labor.The same is true for ATMs, automatic car washes, and self-driving taxis. These are more convenient in a sense- an ATM means being able to get cash at 2 AM to buy pot with, rather than your stones ass having to plan ahead before the banks close-but they are also immiserating. Both you and the clerk are poorer for the experience. The clerk, by having lost his job to a machine. You, because you are doing the work of a clerk and receiving no compensation for the labor, on top of ATM charges because you made the decision to buy pot at a bar ATM that charges $3 for every withdrawal.

You are correct insofar as there is now widespread acceptance of these devices, and that makes it seem like the uncompensated labor you are performing is not work at all. Whenever such devices are introduced to the public, there is a brief period at the beginning where the operator of the device will offer freebies or discounts to entice customers to try the new technology. This makes it seem like youre getting a deal, the very opposite of uncompensated labor. However, those prices rise to the same level they were at prior to the introduction as soon as use of the technology is normalized.

I remember when cell phones first came on the market in the US ion the late 1980's. Until around 2000 or so, they were free. You had mot pay for the contract to use the thing, but the actual physical divide did not cost a penny. After they became commonplace, they started to cost money, and then a lot of money. Now, a new cell phone can cost upwards of $1000. So whatever 'deal' the early adopters felt they were getting has been completely wiped out.

So too with everything else. They are initially advertised as 'passing the savings on to you', and once youre on the hook, those 'savings' disappear.


The reward for using the self-checkout is saving time from standing in line. If there is no line for the cashier, I'd rather interact with a human and save the awkward experience that self-checkout always brings with their ever-different displays, sounds, voices, and idiosyncrasies. Interesting that the PCC at Green Lake has removed them.


I am trying to see how having these monitors puts ANY responsibility on the customers????
The title claims this to be the case, but there is no evidence of the "how" in the article....


The Wallingford QFC has had self checkout for years. The screens, from what I can see, have only appeared recently at self checkout. They aren't in the beer aisle, dunno about the booze.

Objectively, this is entirely the same. You've been on camera, you're still on camera, you will continue to be on camera. The fact that someone may have been been unaware of this doesn't alter that apparent parallel universe.

Or, the tree made noise.

Subjectively, I get self-conscious about it, but, short of looking up, my behavior is not altered.

You seem to be in the parallel universe camp in which no prior surveilling occurred.


The Stranger has published articles stating that Washington state isn’t producing enough weed. This post from Charles is in direct contradiction to that claim - we must be producing a shit ton cause you gotta be baked out of your mind to come up with this drivel.


I love self-checkouts. The monitor screens aren't aimed at my behavior, and do not bother me at all. My Dad used to know a guy called Benny the Dip. Benny probably wouldn't like those screens much.


@6 - I don't feel "immiserated" in any way by using a self checkout. To the contrary, I am never annoyed by the person in front of me insisting on using that 17th-century technology called "writing a check," or having to wait while the clerk yaps with someone about their children etc. I save quite a bit of time and irritation by using them.

also, you seem to start from the premise that any profit is wrong (your citation to "price gouging"). How would you suggest that the store stay in business otherwise?


Imagine earning your keep writing this kind of shit for a living...



You’d have to get rid of capitalism, of course. If you can’t have that, the next best thing is to reorganize as a co-op. If even that is ruled out, an employee owned operation like Winco Foods is the model to copy.

The fact that you do not notice the immiseration in no way negates it’s existence. High blood pressure goes unnoticed in most who have it, until it kills them. It is no less real, either.

As for checks, I suspect you bring them up to suggest that every modern technology is by definition better than every older technology. The Atom Bomb is new, too, newer than 17th century checking accounts, anyway. Is the world better because we have it? Adjustable rate mortgages and CDOs are newer still. I have a few friends who lost everything in the aftermath of the 2007 financial collapse wh are not fans of this new technological innovation. If that’s still too old for you-depending on your age, which I do not know, 10 years ago might seem like eternity- let’s talk about OxyContin, that great new technological advance that’s killing many of your neighbors. When that first hit the market, everyone loved that, too. Nowadays, not so much.

But that’s how it works, you see, the ad industry tells you to love every new shiny thing just because it’s new. Which is as insane as liking everything old just because it’s old. I have a better idea: how about we evaluate a thing based on its effects rather than its age? Are we better because it’s in our lives, or worse off? Does it harm anyone? How many people? And how severely? Is it worth it?


By entering their store, we hand them our Image to do with as they see fit. If Google et al own our Information (searches, purchases, email content, etc), how long til Safeway or Saars (isn't that a Disease?) capitalize on their Video?

"Stealing things is Bad Karma, but many think it's just great, depending on who does it." --@7

Our illegitimate Prez's philosophy, in a nutshell.
If he could Trumpf U. the whole World, he would.

An Infestation, he is.



The Saar was also one of the pretexts for German aggression in the Second World War. How it is that someone thought that would make an enticing shopping experience, I don’t know. Then again, marketers are not necessarily history buffs.

Upon entering any shopping place, I visualize vacuum cleaner heads pointing out of their doors and into my wallet, just trying to suck my bank account dry. The imagined hum of the vacuum usually serves to get me through the experience with few, if any, purchases.


@16: Don't worry. The pixel resolution isn't that great on them. If you're gorgeous, you might end up superimposed in porno pics but you'd probably never know.

A Carly Simon song comes to mind....


“More amazing yet, the shopper must pay for this job (you are not rewarded in any way for all of this hard work). This is not universal progress as it is commonly understood; it is a one-way advancement—a machine that produces not just unpaid labor (slavery) but self-paying labor (the real future).”

Ok, I’ll admit it. If I’d spent most of the last quarter-century getting paid handsomely for writing material no better than this, I too might very well cry “hard work,” and maybe even “slavery,” at the very thought of checking my own groceries.

(Or at the mere thought of my doing any other kind of useful labor, for that matter.)


@18 -- "If you're gorgeous, you might end up superimposed in porno pics but you'd probably never know." Get real. There's a ™ on my Dick.* I have my own Line.

Looks like I'm gonna hafta ™ my Walk or they'll have that too.

*hurts like Hell



would you rather beat one dead horse, or fuck nine live ones?

If the former, Seattle is your home. If the latter, it’s Pennsylvania.


.. There's a screen in the condiment aisle.

Make of that what you will.