“Let the market alone.” That’s the rule of laissez-faire capitalism. The invisible hand is the discerning factor of the market. Capitalism offers us goods and services and if they sell, that is discernment enough. (The most we should do, according to the strictest capitalists, is modify interest rates.)
What is marketable, popular, and sell-able, that is what is “good.” We aren’t trained to ask questions about the latest products, rather, we are just told to consume them. Our best measure against buying something is merely our personal preferences and conveniences. There’s not a lot of thought or conviction that the market demands of us.
Amazon, who has been the subject of more than one of my blog posts in the past, and its latest product are boiling my blood about the insufficient questions that capitalism compels us to ask of it. They just put out an ad for their coolest piece of technology, Amazon Go. It’s a grocery store with no check-out lines.
Five million people have already watched that video. So, it seems like it’s working. People want the convenience, the self-service, and, seemingly, the lack of human interaction. Rather than just let the trending video decide for me, I want to talk back to Amazon. I like lines at the store.
So let me go with Paul when he tells the Thessalonians: test everything; hold fast what is good.
The entirety of my faith is centered on the incarnation of Jesus. A person-to-person, spirit-to-spirit connection saved me. So I stay person-to-person, spirit-to-spirit now. My main reason for protesting it all about human-to-human connection. Amazon Go does violence to the incarnational spirit of Christianity. Here’s how:
Amazon Go removes you from the village. You are now the person who is shopping, the person who you ask where something in the store is, and the person who checks yourself out. I bet they’ll say it “cuts costs.” But I think it hurts the little village that was one of the final vestiges of the common good. We can’t even work on a project together at the grocery store! It’s like when I’m at IKEA, I am the warehouse employee, the cashier, and the assembler of my furniture. Bad for cooperation and mutuality. (And bad for jobs.)
Amazon Go removes you from your wallet. Your wallet now lacks a human connection. I pay with my phone a lot. I use Apple Pay, the Dunkin Donuts app, and so on. I rarely have cash on me. As such, I’m probably Amazon Go’s primary target! But still, I want to touch my wallet or my phone and at least remember that it symbolizes money. To not even have to interact physically with your medium of payment, that’s a little concerning. Many of my friends have trouble budgeting their money and this sort of automation doesn’t help things out.
Amazon Go removes you from other humans. Look, I go to the Reading Terminal Market each week for my groceries. I like knowing my butchers (Martin’s, Godshall’s) and my employees where I buy in bulk (The Head Nut). I have a relationship with many of the people at Iovine’s, too. It’s good to be connected. They know me, they know what I do, and some want develop more of a relationship. I’m at the Market so frequently that, without fail, I get asked if I work there (both by employees and customers) every week. I like that regularity. Amazon Go threatens that.
I love grocery shopping and the “inconvenience” of it. I like the human interaction, I like budgeting my time and money for it, I like feeling like I’m part of something bigger than I am. I like the hustle and bustle. I like being in the city. I like incarnation. I love Christmas. I love Advent.
And frankly? Amazon doesn’t and is telling not us not too. So I’m pushing back. Indeed, let the (Reading Terminal) Market alone and meet me at there on Friday.