Staffed or Unstaffed? Let’s see!

Shops without staff are being found in the city. This is innovative to us. What are the pros and cons of the new grab-and-go model? Write an article for a youth magazine.

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As we are approaching to a new era of unprecedented development of advanced technology, the
business models in Hong Kong are gradually transforming. From McDonald’s replacing cashiers with
ordering machines to the recent Okashi Land going unstaffed, the trend is conspicuous — retails shops are
removing their staff and adopting a grab-and-go model. While this new concept sounds innovative, there
could still be inevitable drawbacks on economic and social aspects. Let’s explore what the pros and cons
are!
To begin with, this new shopping experience leads Hong Kong to be a more innovative city and can
therefore propel more technological research. Everyone knows that Hong Kong has been investing a
colossal amount of capital into the tech field for years but Hong Kong has yet to become a smart city like
what our counterparts are doing. However, this is a great leap for a local retail shop to introduce the grab-
and-go model, relying on high technology. By doing so, Hong Kong can be ‘smarter’ and the significant
convenience of technology be brought about in front of the people’s eyes, making them more willing to
change their lifestyle a little bit. When people recognize technological developments which can actually
bring benefits to their lives, MORE talents would be MORE dedicated to doing MORE research. A virtuous
cycle could then be formed, making Hong Kong more innovative.
Moving back to a microscopic advantage of the staff-less shops, it can reduce the time for queuing
up and enhance the efficiency of transactions. Most Hong Kong people attach paramount importance to
every minute and every second, regarding time as precious as gold, so the inexperienced staff behind
counters can sometimes be irritating. With their undesirable efficiency due to failing to scan a bar code
and struggling to place the goods properly in a plastic bag, the queue can be longer and customers would
frown more. However, the grab-and-go model making use of the radio frequency identification technology
can minimize the errors from humans as human involvement is kept to a minimum. With a smaller
possibility of getting into minor troubles, transactions can proceed more smoothly and efficiently, saving
the time for fast-paced Hong Kong people and quick-tempered teenagers like us.
Undeniably, while welcoming this kind of self-service can be beneficial in both long term and short
term, its disadvantages cannot be overlooked.
One downside to retail shop going unstaffed is that our unemployment rate can suffer a blow.
When the unstaffed model is growing from its infancy to its maturity, more staff are ‘forced’ to step back
from the forefront of the cashier counters, losing their meagerly paid jobs. For most of the time, they are
unskilled and can hardly look for another opportunity once they are laid off. With machines substituting
for their posts, the unemployment rate can surge unexpectedly as the cost of labor cost is slashed, which
favors the shop-owners. While tens of thousands of the citizens are enjoying the enhanced efficiency of
shopping, some can lose their bread and have no other ways to make ends meet.
Other than workers losing jobs, the ties among the people of this city can also be weakened.
Despite the ubiquity of computers and smartphones, people are not necessarily brought closer together
physically or even pulled further away psychologically. And now, with the new model surfacing, the mere
chance of interaction during purchases is also taken away. We are losing more and more connections with
other people, making this metropolis ‘colder’, and more apathetic despite its remarkable development.
Intimacy can be the cost for convenience. We young people may not bother, but how about the older
generations?

As the old saying goes, ‘every coin has two sides’. Whether we should go for this model remains an
open question. Yet, from my perspective, youths like us, who symbolize innovations, dynamics and open-
mindedness, should embrace this emerging and evolving trend. New opportunities always derive from new
crises. Therefore, instead of focusing too much on the negative sides, we should seize the chance to jump
on the bandwagon of developing IT. Only by doing so can we forge a more vibrant, dynamic and creative
Hong Kong. Let’s go to Okashi Land in Mong Kok to have a taste of the grab-and-go model, shall we?