Automation = exploitation

Be warned – this is a bit of a moanfest – but I’m annoyed!

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Luddite, especially when it comes to things like supermarkets and banks. I’d much rather deal with a human being when I’m carrying out any transactions, and I think that if lots of us had eschewed online banking then the banks wouldn’t have seized the chance to close most of their branches, throwing their employees onto the dole queue and leaving people in more rural areas high and dry.

When the supermarkets started installing self-service tills I decided that I was never going to use them. I’m not absolutely ancient but I do just remember the days when we used to go to the shops with our basket and string bags and actually be served by a human being who gathered all your items from the shelves themselves and rang everything up on the till. I couldn’t help thinking back to those days when I went to an ASDA supermarket on Monday, it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the store is a really big one and it was full of shoppers.

I didn’t intend to buy an awful lot, I just wanted some fruit so I took a hand-basket and when I made my way to the check-outs I was shocked to discover that although they have around 23 check-outs only two of them had actual human beings working at them, the rest were all empty, the alternative was for me to serve myself and use an automated check-out. The two ‘womanned’ check-outs were queued up with people who had large trollies full of food, so I just had to abandon my basket and leave. My fruitless supermarket visit was just a waste of time.

I was/am more than a wee bit annoyed, when you consider the massive profits that the supermarkets make it seems ridiculous that they are now employing as few people as they can get away with employing. There used to be a time when employers felt an obligation to the community that supplied them with customers – and employees, but now the only important thing is profit. Costs have been pared back to the bone and the people who provide the businesses with money – the customers – are expected to do the work that was once done by paid employees. For some people a short chat with a shop worker is the only point of contact they have with another human, modern life with family scattered far and wide can be a lonely place, especially for the elderly.

There’s no doubt that in many ways society is going backwards. I’m quite cheesed off about it all. I would probably be regarded as a bit of a red by some people but I really think that if companies are making enormous profits – as supermarkets and banks do – then they shouldn’t be allowed to lay workers off and replace them with machines which exploit their customers for labour.