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Unmanned convenience stores

Posted October. 30, 2017 07:52,   

Updated October. 30, 2017 08:05


In Japan, dubbed “the home of convenience stores,” there is even a novel about convenience stores written by a convenience store employee. The novel is “Convenience Store Man,” which was the 2016 winner of the Akutagawa Prize, a prestigious literary award. The novelist Sayaka Murata describes young people who survive day by day hopelessly without ambition, eating junky foods sold at convenience stores including triangular seaweed rice rolls, and showcases scenery of the store where products are on display in line with the manuals. The novel is based on the author’s own 18-year experience as a part-time casher at convenience stores.

The number of convenience stores in Korea surpassed 30,000 in 2016 amid a soaring number of single-member households and an aging society. The number of convenience stores relative to the population in Korea is 1.5 times that of Japan. The convenience store fits well with Korean people’s way of life as they can eat simple food for meals and buy daily necessities around the clock throughout the year at convenience stores. People can also use laundry, online shopping delivery and banking services at convenience stores. “Given its establishment of a giant integrated network, convenience store is a new type of governing tool, which offers a collection of all different functions needed for daily lives at a single location,” Seoul National University Professor Jeon Sang-in wrote in his book “Convenience Store Sociology.” 

It is an etiquette for people to not greet each other even though they bump into familiar faces. The same holds true between patrons and part-timer cashers as well. A convenience store casher does not recommend a product to a customer, and only scans products to receive payment. Such relationship of “indifference” is one of the reasons people in contemporary society like using convenience stores. Meanwhile, people may not be able to see even a part-timer at a convenience store in the future. A growing number of convenience store owners are transforming their stores into unmanned stores since they cannot afford to pay prior to the adoption of the hourly minimum wage of 10,000 won (around 8.8 U.S. dollars) set in 2020.

The Shinsegae EMart 24 convenience stores located in Seoul Chosun Hotel and Jeonju National University of Education do not have employees on duty all day long, while its Seongsu Baekyeong store and Jangan Metro store will not deploy any employee during late night and early morning hours. A customer can pay for purchases at the self-checkout counter with credit card or transportation pass card for deferred payment. “7-Eleven Signature,” an unmanned convenience store that Lotte Group’s 7-Eleven convenience store chain opened at the Lotte World Tower in May, has adopted a vein-based payment system. All a customer has to do to pay for purchases is to place his or her palm on the scanner. It is a pity to see a rapid hike in minimum wage, which has been adopted by the government with a good intention, is paradoxically killing jobs at convenience stores as well.