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Sure, there's nothing like a friendly face to represent your small business. But between salary, benefits, taxes, interviewing, training, and firing or replacing, that friendly face can get expensive. So why not replace all your friendly faces with the latest smartphones?
One Swedish entrepreneur is way ahead of you. Robert Ilijason has opened the country's first unstaffed, no-cash convenience store, a revelation for penny-pinching business owners looking to cut down on their HR overhead.
As Ilijason describes in the video below, "It's an unmanned store, built on trust, with no cash. Everything is done through the app."
Here's how it works: Customers download the store's app, and use their phones to unlock the front door. Then they use the phone's camera to scan the UPC code for each item. Customers are billed for purchases via a monthly invoice.
The shop has all the basics, and is always open. "The advantage is, I think, it's open 24-7," said one customer. "And for me, when I get here, I have no queues and I get in, get out very quick. And it's very convenient."
The idea came when Ilijason had to drive 20 minutes in the middle of the night to find the nearest open store selling baby food, and he is hoping that new technology can bring back small, local markets that have been replaced by larger box stores farther away.
As for the prospect of theft, it hasn't come up yet. The store doesn't carry beer, cigarettes, or medicine, and Ilijason will be notified via text if the front door stays open too long or someone tries to break in. And there are cameras throughout the store for light-fingered customers: "I know who's in the store, but I also have cameras looking at the shelves. It can actually pick up when someone takes an item from the shelf, it knows who picked it up and what they picked up and when they picked it up. And that way I know if they have paid for it or not."
Although, given the money he's saving on staff costs, Ilijason is probably making enough to let the occasional shoplifter slide.
Before you axe all of your human employees in favor of an app, you might want to run the idea past an experienced business and commercial attorney near you.
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