It’s not that I’m not in favor of technology; This from a blogger who has an Ipad, Ipod, Notebook, Netbook, Kindle, digital camera, Blackberry and desktop pc! So I’m clearly in favor of electronic convenience. Please note I said convenience and not efficiency. I like things that go faster and I love efficiency BUT not at the cost of someone losing their job.
Every day our President is attacked about the lack of jobs, the rising unemployment rate and the weather. Of course mortgage rates are at an all time low, a major depression was diverted into a recession by assisting who? BIG BUSINESS, not welfare recipients, not Social Security pensioners but still Obama is at fault. Why aren’t people being hired? Why aren’t new jobs being created?
I heard something on the news the other night that struck a chord with me. Stop and Shop, one of the nation’s larger chain of supermarkets was implementing the use of their portable scanner in the tri-state area. Apparently this techno gadget was introduced in 2008 and is in use in many of the chain’s outlets.
Customers can scan their items as they shop, a running total is kept and you can even bag and pack your own groceries as you shop. You check out on a machine on the way out. I certainly see the advantaage to this; you can monitor your total so you won’t be shocked at the check out counter. And you can check out with a machine which will surely have a shorter, quicker line than the one you choose with a cashier. So what’s wrong with this picture?
Well from my point of view, this is automation pure and simple and when the machine takes over, the person is gone. Their job has been eliminated, their paycheck has disappeared and now that person(s) is unemployed. Maybe he/she is collecting unemployment, maybe trying to live off their Social Security check. Whatever…the MACHINE is now in place where a real live person used to stand. Maybe not always smiling, maybe not always packing your groceries carefully but nonetheless, a human being, someone just like you and me who tries each week to pay the bills with a shrinking paycheck.
The grocery cashiers that I have come in contact with over the years and depending on the state I lived in seemed to fall in one of three categories; High School and College students working part-time after school, house-wives looking to add income to the family and young men and women who are not or did not go on to college take this job because their options are limited. Then in days gone by for the most part, besides the cashier, there was a bagger; Add to above categories, the retirees who gratefully took on this menial job because they enjoyed being out of the house and seeing people and the income didn’t hurt either.
The personal scanner in one fell digital swoop, swept them all out the door. Now isn’t that efficient? Just think, the personal scanner took the place of two people and IT doesn’t get lunch breaks, vacations, health insurance, 401 Ks. And to boot it isn’t unionized the way most of Stop & Shop’s employees are!! What a great solution to a weakening economy! Raise the prices of the products, eliminate employees and my guess is the profit margin is sustained to keep its shareholders happy.
What a vicious cycle-there are no jobs, so big business eliminates more. The people who were gainfully employed are now NOT. Proponents of Big Business proclaim the problem with our economy is most certainly those at the bottom of the economic ladder, blood-sucking welfare and unemployment and Social Security SO what do those proponents think when it is Big Business who actually adds to those ranks by laying off real people so a machine can take their place??
It’s not just Stop & Shop, and they are hardly the first. Over the years, in my lifetime I’ve seen the milkman disappear, the bread delivery man, the telephone operators, the bank tellers replaced by ATM machines, the gas station attendants giving way to self-service pumps, the receptionist replaced by voice mail. At my local Home Depot, there used to be at least 6 check out counters. Now there are four and 3 self check-out machines!
What do you think?