Monday, November 29, 2010

Jobs for humans

Strange, I suppose, but I'm all for the idea of jobs for humans.

I'm sick of being directed to use the self-checkout lanes, tired of waiting on hold while a machine drones a loop of pre-recorded pap.

What a concept. Jobs for humans. And today of all days, Cyber Monday, a day we're supposed to go online and shop our brains out.

While I understand the concept -- that virtual shops should make overhead costs lower, I'm having trouble getting my head around what happens when all of us do all our transactions online. And really, I want people to have jobs.

I'm so concerned about jobs disappearing, I refuse to go to self-checkout lines at my supermarket.

I even mail in some of my bills. I figure that somebody has to clear the letter box, empty the bag, at least throw the envelopes into the sorter, etc. Then, when the item arrives at the company in question (oh yes, a letter carrier even delivers it), a person has to open the envelope, look at the numbers on the cheque and the bill, credit my account...

Considering the many steps one simple bill payment must go through (as opposed to if I pay it online), quite a few people have to actually touch the documents -- in other words, a lot of people have themselves a job. Just thinking about the many people whose jobs I contribute to (even in a small way), I reckon I get my 57cents worth.

Crazy? Maybe. But it makes me wonder just who'll have the money to buy anything -- online or in person -- if too many of our jobs get taken over by machines, whether self-checkout cash lines or automated bill pay systems.

Next time you're shopping -- or paying a bill, for that matter -- think about whether you're doing anything to ensure at least a couple of jobs for the humans. After all, humans (especially employed ones) may well be the next endangered species.


Anonymous said...

If you want to learn all about how the mail system works check out this blog by the postal workers in Winnipeg, Canada. href=""

Canada Post recently cut 300 jobs and refuses to staff appropriately. The letter carriers there are in a struggle with Canada Post to create more jobs and over health & safety issues (there have been a large number of workplace accidents that have occurred because of changes made to the delivery system).

Canada Post is running the postal service into the ground, if they continue the way they are going there won’t be one. If they were to privatize the mail service will no longer be an affordable universal public service. The costs of shipping will go up and delivery to rural and more isolated communities will go down or disappear altogether. Mail and parcel service will then become a luxury service that only the rich can afford.

It is a sad day when the government takes jobs and services away from working class people.

Anonymous said...

Hey Heidi,

For the sake of a robust discussion on your blog ... I offer this:

The self checkout lines at the grocery stores do in fact, create good paying jobs for technology workers and for the design specialists who work to make the stalls user friendly.

More importantly the self check out stalls eliminate rotten jobs.

The jobs you seem to be nostalgic for -- that is, the clerk at the grocery store and the phone receptionist, were horrible jobs. I did them. Scanning people's groceries for hours a day creates carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, backaches -- in general they are unhealthy jobs. The worst is receptionist -- I can't tell you how often strangers feel free to call receptionists "bimbos" and even curse them out because the person they want to speak to isn't available. Funny, people think twice about leaving a curse-ridden voice mail, but won't hesitate for a minute to call out a real human being.

The real human jobs right now are in designing and developing the technologies that make our lives easier and healthier. And in creating social situations/environments where we interact meaningfully with each other, not just one person doing the work and the other watching.

Just saying ... and I love reading your blog.

Warmly, Jody.

hg said...

And I'm always pleased to respond to thoughtful comments.
As for receptionist, I never did that. I did do a few years as a grocery cashier. To this day, I hold regrets that I didn't stay in it.
I'm not saying it's a wonderful job. But it is a job, and that's the part I'm concerned about.
Sure the technology workers and design specialists who create and set up the self-checkout stalls are well-paid. But that's a one-timer, not enduring employment like the person who greets you, scans your items, etc.
Even the store manager admitted they'll now be able to hire fewer people. And that's my worry, why I won't use self-checkout.
Still, I love the exchange of ideas. After all, isn't that what blogging is really all about?

rashid1891 said...

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hg said...

That first comment by Anonymous (the first Anon, not Jody) was something I had to fetch days later from the spam bin.
Sadly, a case of a pre-programmed machine determining what is spam and what isn't. The blog the comment links to is a timeline of events quite pertinent to the questions I raised in my posting.
I'm glad I found it and could retrieve it.

hg said...

And on the other hand, no spam blocker raised a flag over Rashid1891's comment -- which is not so much a comment as a link to a job board for employment in Pakistan, not exactly the solution I had in mind.