A Bulli resident has vowed never to scan his own groceries at supermarket self-service counters, calling it "a matter of principle".
Laurie Gripton, 62, said he was shocked to see the express checkout counter unattended during a recent visit to Bulli Woolworths, despite what he thought were good staff numbers.
"I was told to use the self-checkout counter and even though I had only three items I decided to wait in line behind people with full trolleys, at checkout counters with actual people," he said.
"There is a push towards self-service."
Mr Gripton's stand against self-service comes as Woolworths announces the expansion of its use of artificial intelligence and security cameras at self-checkouts.
"Technology is good and should be creating jobs but supermarkets are getting rid of jobs," he said.
"If technology is doing all the work, they will not need people anymore."
The former cafe owner who prides himself on customer service said the big supermarkets had gone away from that.
The customer is carrying much of the operational expenditure but not being paid for it.
"We want customer service, the elderly especially as we are not real good with technology," he said.
"You can see ALDI is getting busier, all old people are going there."
UOW expert Professor Katina Michael said the new technology that films Woolworths customers while they're scanning items was like a third umpire in cricket.
"If the AI thinks there has been a mistake, it makes decisions after reviewing the recorded video, much like the third umpire," she said.
"Where machines think they will have it over the humans, humans are clever enough, if they want to steal they will steal, they will find a way around the process," she said.
"We need to invest in people."
The Wollongong academic, who regularly comments on the social implications of emerging technologies, said the growth of self-checkout counters had pushed much of the burden on customers.
"The customer is carrying much of the operational expenditure but not being paid for it," she said.
"Self-checkout also entices people to do some snap-buying because they think - I can just pop in - scan stuff, don't have to see anyone, but don't realise they end up spending more with regular visits like these."
A Woolworths spokesperson said they were focused on providing multiple ways to shop given the changing needs.
"We'll always provide customers with an option at the checkout and would encourage customers to speak to the store's service desk if they're in need of assistance," the spokesperson said.
Community reacts to Laurie's self-service boycott
When Laurie Gripton posted his concerns about increased use of technology on a local Facebook community page, he was met with a mixed response.
"I enjoy nothing more than completing my shopping without having to speak to a single soul," one comment read.
Another suggested the growth of home delivery since the onset of the pandemic had created new roles.
"They still have staff, they have been redistributed to account for current needs (eg click and collect which also brings me so much joy)," she said.
One man recalled a time when the petrol bowser at service stations were staffed.
"We no longer bat an eyelid about having to do it all ourselves, and this, too, will be the same," he said.
Mr Gripton's Facebook post also had its supporters, with a fellow resident pointing out that self-billing a large number of items was not practical.
"I go once every three weeks and spend two to three hundred dollars and I am not serving myself for that. I struggle with that part of my shopping."
Another woman said she was not afraid to ask staff to scan her items for her at the self-checkout if all the registers were closed.
"I went to Kmart Batemans Bay, they said they had no-one on the tills for the day," she said.
"So I asked the lady to scan my items for me as I was unable to. She was hesitant but did it, it's not her fault I know, but I'm not employed by Kmart."
Then there was this comment from a woman who refused to be treated like a thief.
"Never use them now because every time I did they would play up and the red warning light would go on and it would broadcast loudly unsuspected item in baggage area, seek assistance. Buggered if I want people thinking I'm trying to knock stuff off!"