business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I got an Eye-Opening email from an MNB reader this week that I wanted to share:

I was in the Kansas City airport, the 2nd day of the “new” airport. Down in baggage claim of all places is an Amazon Go store. Now I don’t know what title the people assisting shoppers are called (mentors, geniuses, etc.) but they had two working that 2nd day. I was more than a bit surprised at the mature lady on the right, she has cane and as I noticed limited mobility. Her age is at least 70 or at least on either side of 70. 

Labor issues are an issue but can this lady really help all the people younger and more digitally native shoppers with app/software downloads and issues? Would I feel better working through the app struggle with her or a 25 year old with green hair?  Probably the latter for me but I may be in the minority. Does Amazon want a lady that might have worked in a grocery store in 1969 when she was 16 helping shoppers new to the technology? I guess it is all perception and she may have completed a great career in IT and be very capable and is doing this for fun and to meet people. I really doubt that since she is working at a Amazon Go store in an airport but who knows.

Here's the picture.

First of all, I agree that this is an interesting place for a new Amazon Go store, especially at a time when Amazon is closing a number of stores in its fleet.  But, if we accept that it isn't an experiment if we know how it is going to turn out, it may simply be that Amazon is testing a number of different and even unconventional locations for the Go stores, tapping into what it hopes will be consumer demand.

Second, regarding the store's admittedly mature employee.  I take your point about whether this person, at least on the face of it, is the best ambassador for Go-style technology.  In fact, we don't know if she is or not.  She may be incredibly talented at a) engaging with people, and b) teaching customers about technology.  It may matter more if she's good at (a) than (b), since (b) is sort of self-evident.  And, the fact is that if she indeed is 70, that means she was 40 in 1993, which was when Amazon was the early stages of development.

It may be that I'm taking this observation a little personally.  I'm not that far from being 70, and I think I could explain Go technology as customers.  (You should've seen me explaining the Parallel Realities technology to other Delta passengers in the Detroit airport yesterday.  I was terrific - though I suspect Mrs. Content Guy would've observed that I belonged in a Progressive Insurance commercial, cited by Dr. Rick as a bad example of how to behave in public.)

Here's the bottom line, in my view.  I think we have to be a little careful about how we evaluate people's abilities based on their age or, quite frankly, other stereotypical characteristics.  You may be right - she may have the job because she has a heartbeat and nobody else was available.  But she also may be the right person for the gig, which all by itself could be an Eye-Opener.