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It’s a shopping experience that would leave you very surprised. The mini-mart stands out as one of two businesses which operate late into the night on Aubrey Barker Road in the South Ruimveldt Park area of Georgetown. But while one is accustomed to a cashier or the shopkeeper tallying the bill, this business allows the customer to cash his/her own items. The mini-mart on Aubrey Barker Street in South Ruimveldt Park
In fact, the owner may be somewhere around in the facility, as he can be seen on a TV screen checking on things in the mart in a studio-like room within the mart, which operates mainly at nights.
The business has been around for some time, but a few customers received a surprise in recent months when, on entering the mart, a voice on a speaker can be heard giving assistance to shoppers as well as advice on where to make payments for items purchased.
The businessman, called Julius, allows two to three persons within the mart at a time, as he utilises a wide range of technological steps, including cameras, microphones, automated gates and digital scales, to operate the business.
While persons shop at supermarkets in the area during the daytime, the mart is the go-to location for shopping late at nights, as a variety of items, from foodstuff to beverages, ice, over-the-counter drugs, grooming utensils and phone credit, among other items, are sold at the location.
During a visit to the mart by a Guyana Times journalist late one evening, the technology was on full display as late shoppers gathered outside the mart to await their turn to make their purchases. Inside, three persons could be seen shopping for various items from the shelves. While two shopped, one stood behind a microphone and indicated that she wanted to purchase some phone credit. Then, as she made her request, a machine made a sound similar to that of a vacuum cleaner.
“That sound is the tube which a container comes down in, and you have to open the container and put your money in there and press a button and it goes somewhere up in the roof,” a shopper in the line noted.
It was a little past 22:00hrs and it was now our turn to experience shopping within the fully-automated mart. A gate slid across, and the three shoppers exited and the structure closed behind us as we entered. Once inside, a number of closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) were evident above the shelves, in front of the refrigerators, and at the side close to the microphone.
A shopper in our midst asked, “Where is the Crix?” and a voice on the loudspeakers in the ceiling said, “Check the shelf at the top to your left.” The shopper stood around startled, as she asked, “Is where that voice coming from?”
Soon after gathering her items, the woman asked where she had to pay for the items. A customer outside in the line then informed her that she needed to walk around to the refrigerators and cash her items at the counter. We soon followed, and observed a neat counter with point-of-sale machines set up at its sides, and while the woman fidgeted for her money to make her payment, a voice informed that she needed to press a button at the left of the counter. After completing this task, a door on the tube opened and the businessman asked that she open the container in the tube and place her payment there.
Then the vacuum-sounding machine was heard. The feature consists of a tube that leads from the counter to the roof and into the ceiling. One would surmise that the business owner was somewhere at the other end of the tube, and we soon found out what he looked like.
As the woman in front of us looked up to speak into the microphone, the businessman appeared on a television screen set up on the wall behind the microphone. He could be seen in a room counting the woman’s cash payment. Soon after, he sent her change back to the counter through the tube.
As she retrieved the money from the container in the tube, she exclaimed, “This place fully technological,” as she giggled and walked towards the exit.
It was our turn to make our purchase, and with ease we followed the woman’s transaction and completed our purchase for the night.
We then exited the mart as a line of eager customers stood outside awaiting their turn to shop in what may be Guyana’s first cashier-less, fully automated business.