“Meet Marty”


Coming around the corner in the grocery store last week I encountered this tall metal object beeping at me. Since I don’t speak robot, I was not sure what I was supposed to do. Was it wanting to go past me? Was I to wait for it to turn the corner? I stared at it for a while and it kept beeping. Deciding it had no better idea than I did about what to do, I moved around it and went on down the next aisle.

This robot is named Marty and comes equipped with googly eyes to make it seem more what? Personable? I found the encounter unsettling and asked at the checkout stand what was the purpose of this roving robot. Apparently it moves up and down the aisles looking for spilled items and then announces–in a robot voice–“clean up in aisle 4.” Previously I saw a disabled young man roving the store with a mop. Perhaps Marty replaced him.

Marty, it turns out, is equipped with a camera. “Only to record if someone kicks him,” I am told. Ha! Call me suspicious, but I doubt it. I guess this “soft” introduction of a robot into a  union employee grocery chain is to get us used to mechanical intrusions. The store has failed to convince all of us to check out ourselves, bag our own groceries, pay by credit card, and leave without any human interaction at all. Some of us Luddites still prefer to see a cashier when we buy groceries. But the writing is on the wall, I am afraid.

Maybe I can convince Marty to carry my purchases to the car!




27 thoughts on ““Meet Marty”

  1. I know robots, and most computerized things are supposed to improve efficiency, but I’m positive I’m not the only person who is filled with joy when I navigate all the automated questions and finally can speak with a human.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There must be a lot more clean-ups to clean up in your store than in stores in my neighborhood if a full-time robot (which replaced a disabled young man with a mop) is needed to roam the aisles looking for spills. And “Marty” doesn’t even carry a mop, so the smarty who hired Marty is only getting half the work out of him that the disabled young man did….which leads me to believe that Marty’s principal job is looking for shoplifters. It probably won’t take long for shoplifters to figure that out, so don’t be surprised if you see Marty with a paper bag over his head in aisle 4 next time you go to the store.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Marty’s eyes probably don’t do the ‘seeing,’ so if a shoplifter puts a paper bag over Marty’s head hoping to avoid detection, his/her ass is likely to get ‘pinched.’


  3. I am part of a focus group for “Wally World”, and they are setting up several types of robots with different functions. The one we were discussing would scan shelves for misplaced items and alert employees to move them. We had to come up with ideas for signage for the robot to let shoppers know to leave it alone. It seemed everyone came up with, “This is not the droid you are looking for.”

    Several people mentioned that the robots looked like fun targets for bored teenagers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I refuse to use the ‘self-scan’, or automated checkouts. It is important to keep the jobs, and I prefer to deal with a person at the checkout too. As for ‘robot cleaners’, I think they may be some way off over here. Our national obsession with ‘health and safety’ would worry too much about someone tripping over one, or crashing into it on their electric scooter. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.


  5. My heart hurt a little bit when I read “Previously I saw a disabled young man roving the store with a mop. Perhaps Marty replaced him.”
    I’m resistant to doing all of my transactions through screens and robots. It makes me sad.


  6. I wouldn’t want to meet Marty in my local shop! I’s find it a lot easier without the attempt to make it look ‘human’. A humble – and shorter – device, clearly a machine, would feel less weird. But I’m well aware that change is inevitable and this is the direction in which we’re headed. There will be benifits, I’m sure.


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