Celebrating Marty the grocery store robot’s birthday is super depressing

Marty the grocery store robot has officially wreaked havoc on Stop & Shop employees for one full year. A real milestone.

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely familiar with Marty, the giant gray, aisle-patrolling, essentially pointless robot that Stop & Shop introduced to more than 300 stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey in 2019.

Marty bots roam the stores, but don’t clean up spills. Instead, when the autonomous robots detect a spill, piece of debris, or any sort of potential hazard on the floor, they simply report it to a store employee who then has to clean it up by hand.

Aside from giving shoppers like myself anxiety and annoying Stop & Shop’s human employees, Marty and his robot cousins don’t appear to have made any life-changing impact in store productivity. Despite that fact, however, select Stop & Shop stores recently decided to celebrate the 140-pound, $35,000 robots with one-year birthday parties. Like, actual birthday parties with invitations, and balloons, and cake, and stuff.

How depressing is that?

Before we talk about Marty’s big bash, I just want to say that I’m a huge birthday person. I love parties, I’m always down for a piece of cake, and I think the fact that every person has one day a year dedicated to celebrating their existence is great. 

But Marty? Marty’s a robot, and robots don’t need birthday parties. It’s as simple as that.

A few days ago Marty posted invitations to his party on his recently launched website, which, I just have to note, looks better than my website. The four-hour parties were to be held at participating stores on Saturday, Jan. 25, and birthday cake, children’s activities, and giveaways were promised.

Robots at participating stores received some astounding treatment. They got “I’m the birthday bot” adhesive ribbons, birthday hats, and in some cases, balloons tied to their structure. Stores really went all out to make these lifeless objects feel loved.

According to updates on Twitter, which were shared using the hashtag #MartyParty, each participating Stop & Shop store also got Marty a very unique and elaborate cake. Seems like a lot, but OK! 

Marty clearly has some fans that enjoyed his birthday, but I’m sure other people out there, like myself, can’t help but think a Marty Party is ridiculous.

It’s nice to bring shoppers together and celebrate something once in a while, but I want to remind everyone who seems to have forgotten that Marty is a robot. Sure, he has giant google eyes slapped on his frame to make him seem less intimidating and more human, but he’s not capable of feeling actual emotions.

I’m confident that Marty wouldn’t have cared if we celebrated the 365th day of his existence or not, which means that Stop & Shop stores could have used the resources invested into his celebrations for literally anything else. Does every human employee that works at Stop & Shop get a birthday cake with their photo on it? Balloons? A hat? A decorated store? How about an invitation for the public to come celebrate? If not, it seems like Stop & Shop is treating its robot employees better than its human employees, which is messed up.

It’s one thing to embrace new technology in the world and workplace, but it’s a whole other weird and slightly depressing thing to praise that technology’s work ethic and contribution as though it’s even a thing capable of receiving praise. 

I was unable to attend Marty’s party on Saturday, but on my Sunday grocery run I crossed paths with the one-year-old robot who was still decked out in his birthday attire. (He’s one of those bots who celebrates all week.) 

As he beeped past and his birthday balloon continuously bumped against the back of his head I couldn’t stop myself from letting out an audible chuckle, grabbing my phone, and capturing the unreal sight on video.

I’m unsure how many costumes Marty has worn in the past or has stored in his work locker for the future, but I definitely saw him sporting a skeleton adhesive in honor of Halloween, which, like his birthday getup, could very well be straight out of a  scene from the NBC comedy, Superstore.

For those who aren’t familiar with Superstore, the show follows a chaotic, parody of a workplace that recently welcomed an autonomous store robot just like Marty, named Glen. Robot Glen, who is occasionally dressed in clothes, stressed workers out so much that they eventually took him up to the roof of the building and rolled him off.

If we’re on our way to becoming a parody of a parody, then all I can say is watch out, Marty.

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