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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Checkout Conundrum




According to a recent report, automation will claim 800 million jobs by 2030. Machine operators and food workers will take the hardest hit, and it’s estimated that one-fifth of the global workforce will be affected. In the United States, between 39 and 73 million jobs will be eliminated, while in the UK 20% of current jobs will become automated.

On the bright side, the report also indicates that new technology will see new types of jobs emerge. Also, jobs such as gardening, plumbing and care work will be less affected by automation.

I’ve started to notice that when I’m out shopping, fewer people are manning the checkouts. In one store, I could not find a single checkout being attended. Instead, the staff were eagerly pointing shoppers in the direction of the ‘self-service’ checkout.

At my local bank, I see a similar scenario. On entering, I am greeted by a member of staff who asks me what I need to do. If I want to lodge cash or a cheque or make a withdrawal, they point to one of the many ATM’s.  It feels like they are reluctant to let me approach the counter.

Call me old fashioned if you like, but I want to communicate with a person when I’m being served in a shop or at a bank. There are times when the ATM does come in handy, but it’s nice to talk to a human being.

Older members of society that I have spoken to do not like this new approach. They don’t trust the machines, they find them complicated to use, and there are some who don't even own a bank card. In addition, for many older folk, a trip to the shop is the highlight of their day. Lots of older people live alone, and a two-minute chat at the checkout may be their only interaction with another human being for twenty-four hours.

Of course, the banks and the shops will tell us that the introduction of these machines is to make things more convenient for us consumers. 

But is it? I think not.  

More machines mean that shops and banks require less staff -  less staff means fewer wages to pay - fewer wages to pay means bigger profits for retailers and banks.

Don’t get me wrong; technology is good. Technology has done much for humankind. At the flick of a switch we can heat our homes, talk to friends in faraway places and advancement in medical technology means we can cure diseases that only a short time ago were considered fatal. 

Technology has its place, but I think it’s time we asked ourselves who all this technology is serving? Us, the consumers, or the global giants of retail and banking? 

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2 comments:

  1. Interesting post with good true thoughts.

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    1. Hi, Christine. Thank you for commenting, and glad you found it interesting.

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