Marty the Robot is Stop & Shop’s most recognizable gimmick: A tall, oblong robot with googly eyes, moving steadily around the store. According to an alleged former Stop & Shop worker on TikTok, Marty is secretly a surveillance droid.
The company has since refuted her claims in a statement to the Daily Dot.
In a viral TikTok that’s now been viewed more than 600,000 times, TikToker @laidlaces_ accuses Marty of patrolling the store in order “to watch you.”
“So what customers think is that Marty’s a robot that tells us when there’s like spills or any hazards around the store,” she says. “But in actuality, Marty has a whole bunch of cameras all over him.” Pointing at the censors on Marty’s “body,” she claimed that security guards could watch a live camera feed from Marty on their phones.
When Stop & Shop introduced these robots in 2019, Marty attracted a mixed response. In-store robots have a certain novelty appeal, but Marty was also criticized as a labor rights issue, with Stop & Shop being accused of trying to automate certain jobs to avoid paying more workers.
On top of this, a lot of Stop & Shop workers and customers find Marty useless and annoying, getting in people’s way and failing to complete his allotted tasks. Robotic incompetence aside though: Is Marty secretly watching you, or is @laidlaces_’s claim an unfounded conspiracy theory?
A spokesperson for Stop & Shop told the Daily Dot “Marty does not have any surveillance capabilities.” The spokesperson also refuted the TikToker’s allegation that security guards could watch a live feed via cameras on Marty.
“It is not possible for any security personnel to watch customers or associates through Marty’s cameras,” they said. “In fact, Marty takes only still photography of the store floors as he works to identify spills and hazards to keep the store safe; he does not have any video capabilities.”
Marty’s official job is to patrol the store and spot spills and hazards. According to Stop & Shop, the robot’s sensors are just there to find items on the floor, and to prevent it from bumping into things. The original manufacturer Badger Technologies makes no mention of surveillance on its website, and in an interview after Marty’s launch, this is how Badger’s CEO described Marty’s capabilities:
“The robot is instructed to ‘pose’ at the top and bottom of each aisle as it makes its run around the store. At each pose, the three cameras on the right side of the robot are turned to look down the aisle and take pictures. It can see up for 70 feet, with its three cameras focused on close, medium and far distances.”
Marty is advertised as “AI” technology, but this isn’t Artificial Intelligence like in a sci-fi movie. That’s just the term used to describe its image-recognition skills (ie. recognizing the presence of litter on the floor) and its ability to learn a simple route around the store. The robots can also be programmed to scan shelves and notice out-of-stock items.
But in the comments to @laidlaces_’s viral TikTok, a lot of people bought into her surveillance theory. “I figured Marty was an opp,” one commenter wrote.
“He’s a security guard and I knew that already,” another wrote.
However, a couple of commenters claiming to be Stop & Shop workers argued that Marty is nowhere near as threatening (or as useful) as people believe. “I worked for corporate, basically all marty does is cover insurance liabilities,” one said. “As It functions now it is pretty useless.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to @laidlaces_ via TikTok comment.
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