Sunday, August 26, 2007

Today I'll Grumble

Apparently whining brings out the comments...but I won't make a habit of it. Instead, I'll grumble.

Today I did some shopping at the local grocery. I used the self-check out kiosk. As I was scanning my twenty bottles of Diet Arizona Green Tea (they were on sale for a dollar a bottle - I cleared the shelf), a lady stopped and told me in no uncertain terms that by using the self-check out kiosk I was depriving people of their jobs.

I didn't pause as I told her that, no, the grocery chain might be depriving people of jobs but, since they didn't ask me if I'd rather they have fewer employees at the store just so I could check my own groceries, I didn't feel responsible. She wanted to argue some about it and made another couple of statements that I mostly ignored and then I asked her if she'd please go bother someone else with her crusade as I wasn't interested.

She made one of those little sniffy sounds and stomped off in her Birkenstocks, net bag in hand to the produce section. Nervy gal.

In fact, since I get charged exactly the same as someone who goes through the line and gets two employees' services - a checker and a bagger - it appears that I'm the one getting ripped off in this equation. As I looked around the store it also appeared that there was a 1:1 ratio of employees and customers at that moment. If they're depriving people of work because I'm using self-check out, they certainly weren't looking too understaffed, considering.

I got home and was sharing the story with my daughter, and she noted that there are the same number of check out aisles as ever in the store it's not like they closed a bunch of them down to make room for the kiosks. This is true, and I don't remember ever being there when they were all in use. My daughter is pretty smart.

Yes, self-service may cost some jobs. I don't know, I don't have the facts. But stores are in the business of serving the customer. If self-service is something customers want (and those kiosks always have people at them, so I guess it is) then it's a smart business move to put them in. I'd guess that keeping the store competitive so they don't have to go out of business and fire all the employees is a good thing. I hope the employees that lost their jobs found new ones at one of the other new, very large grocery stores that have gone up within 5 miles of here.


bunnygirl said...

I like self-service checkout, although the only store I go to that has it is a store I don't frequent regularly. In that store, they didn't close any checkout lanes, but opened two new ones, each with two self-checkout terminals and a person stationed in the middle to keep an eye on things, help with problems, etc. So to my perhaps untrained eye, it looks like more people can check out with the addition of only one employee.

Would the store have hired FOUR more employees to accomplish the same thing? Not likely!

Besides, just about every modern convenience and innovation deprived someone of a job... and gave work to others. Yet I see no one giving up their car so they can give their business instead to whip and buggy makers.

Ms Birkenstock should take her pseudo-piety elsewhere, such as a blog. Let her rant into cyberspace like the rest of us. ;-)

And as an aside, anytime they want to replace the overly familiar, overly chatty, trying-way-too-hard-to-be-hip checkers at Whole Foods with computers, I'll be most grateful. If more checkers would just check groceries and refrain from commenting on what you're buying and flirting with their other checker friends, machines would be much less attractive.

Cookie said...

Of course, she's smart. She's your daughter!

I have nothing polite to say about self-serve thingies at the grocery.


julie said...

I notice the same number of checkout lanes are still open at my local grocery store - if you count the four self-checkout lanes (with their one employee watching over them) as one. They even tried the idea of letting customers scan their own groceries as they shopped.

What gets me is that our Post Office has installed an Automatic Postal Center. They haven't dropped any employees, but there's always a packed lobby. Oh, and with the APC and two stamp machines, there are still no First Class Stamps. Come to think of it, that probably explains the long line.

AstonWest said...

I should have patented the idea for a self-serve postage kiosk years ago when I came up with the idea... this, as I was standing in line for 20 minutes waiting.

Self-serve kiosks are awesome. If I could have every store I frequent sign up to the idea, I'd be a happy person. I've heard more than one person complain about how it takes jobs away from people...but in reality, it allows a person to check, bag and get out with their groceries quickly. There's nothing I hate worse than having to hang out behind a person with maybe 10 items for 40 minutes because the cashier can't figure out how a bar code works...