Just scan the item you want with your smartphone and walk out.

It had to happen. The expansion of major convenience stores in Japan has accelerated so much that they all began to have trouble finding enough people willing and competent enough to staff them. First, they began hiring foreign residents in large numbers and made some major changes accommodations such as simplifying communication and automating certain aspects of service.

Now, major chain Lawson has reached the point where we all knew this was heading: a fully self-serve convenience store. At a renovated location in Tokyo, the first Lawson Smartphone Pay started on 9 October.

▼ This Lawson is in the ground floor of the JEBL Akiba Square Building

You might notice some unusual features inside this store as a result. For example, the fried foods such as Lawson’s legendary Karaage-kun chicken are self-serve rather than being only accessible by the cashier as they traditionally are.

There’s also an eat-in counter equipped with chargers, USB ports, and tablets on which you can read digital magazines and newspapers.

We sent Mr. Sato to be our Lawson Smartphone Pay pioneer and try it out. First, he had to download and install the official Lawson app on his smartphone. From there it was the usual song and dance: agree to the terms of service and create a Lawson account. You can also register any point cards you happen to have which Lawson normally accepts, like Ponta or d-Point.

After you’re all set up, when you enter the Lawson you can just boot up the Smartphone Pay feature of the Lawson app. It’s easy to find. Just look for the woman dressed like a Hamburglar — which is appropriate because you’re about to feel like you’re stealing.

From there you have two buttons. The left one with the concentric circles will automatically detect which Lawson you’re in and connect to it using your phone’s GPS and Bluetooth. The right button opens up a QR code reader which you can also use to connect to the store.

Once you’re connected, your phone becomes a barcode scanner. Just take the item you want to buy and show its barcode to the phone.

Here Mr. Sato just showed his phone a can of coffee and was told it would cost him 100 yen (US$0.89).

Whenever you’re ready, you can go to the checkout screen to confirm your purchases and add or remove more of the same items easily without having to scan each one repeatedly.

If everything checks out, just choose you payment method such as Apple Pay or credit card, and then confirm the transaction.

And then you can just waltz out of there with your stuff.

To a lot of people this will feel really awkward at first. After all, how can you be sure it really went through properly and you won’t be mistakenly brought up on shoplifting charges?

Lawson anticipated this and added several features to ease consciences and make sure no thievery, accidental or otherwise, has taken place. After the purchase is made, a confirmation email is sent, and a special QR code is given that can be read by an in-store device to show that both sides are aware of the purchase.

▼ Just show your QR code to this scanner and you can be sure your purchase happened.

If that’s still not enough, your entire purchase history is recorded in the app which also gives you a lifelike digital receipt to ease your worries.

Lawson has really been stepping up their tech game in recent weeks, with this service coming at about the same time as they joined the ChargeSpot network of rentable smartphone chargers. Actually, this particular store in Akihabara is one of six Lawson stores which currently has a ChargeSpot stand.

Smartphone Pay is a bit of process to set up, but the convenience is remarkable. As Mr. Sato walked out with his coffee, he glanced over at the line of people waiting at the counter and hoped this service comes to all Lawsons in Japan as soon as possible.

Photos: SoraNews24
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