Cyber Monday: Are Robots Taking Over the Shopping World?

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HASLET -- When you think about the choice between fighting crowds at the store, or buying things with a few clicks from your couch at home, it's no surprise that Cyber Monday has gradually been taking the place of Black Friday as top shopping holiday.

But is this "cyber takeover" more than meets the eye?

After all, the more people shop online, the more work there is for the robot armies at Amazon's fulfillment centers.  And Cyber Monday keeps those guys busy.

"Cyber Monday is a huge shopping day for Amazon," said Amanda Ip, an Amazon spokesperson.  "We've got thousands of deals available.  In fact last year on Cyber Monday, we sold 54 million items.  That's 629 items per second."

And every one of those orders is fulfilled, in part, by a computerized machine.  Amazon's automatons have even been helping small businesses like Sabrina Evans' Sleepy Cottage meet their customers' demands!

"I sell these sleep masks; they're hand-crafted here in Arlington." Evans said.  Meeting demand from her own facility is "definitely a logistical challenge for us, but Amazon has got it down."

But as much as their robots help when it comes to getting all those boxes out the door to customers, Amazon also employs plenty of humans.

"We have 3,000 permanent, full-time associates who work here in this building," Ip said.  And during holiday rushes like this one, they bring in a lot more!

One of those associates is Marie Kasonga, who's been packaging customers' orders by hand for almost two years now.  Watching her expertly scan the item off the motorized conveyor belt, unfold an appropriately-sized box, apply tape, and carefully pack the item with protective plastic... It's obvious no robot could do her job.

Some things, like making custom, hand-crafted sleeping masks, or boxing items with care, just require a human touch.

Until robots learn that trick, they won't be taking over the marketplace any time soon.  But in the meantime, they sure do help!