Floating on social media is an article titled People Are Refusing to Use Self-Checkout Because It’ll “Kill Jobs” by Jon Christian of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This article, dated December 9, 2018, speaks of Canadians who refuse to use the self-checkout lines.  

Without knowledge of the article mentioned above, I published a similar piece in READY Publication summer 2019 issue titled Employment Status. Here is that article.

With America $1T in debt, shouldn’t each of us do what we can to increase employment? Shouldn’t we thoughtfully support community buying power, to decrease the ever-growing debt?

Self-checkout has become a thing. The lines are short, and going through them is painless, for the most part. Regardless of time constraints, whether one item or several, it’s a checkout line I along with many other people, avoid.

Telephone call automation has gone too far. What happened to voice to voice and face to face conversations? Many people desire a quick fix or a simple button to press and then to move on. There are times when people seek a good morning, afternoon, or evening greeting followed by a “how may I serve/help you?”

We wonder why people are lacking in social skills, yet we have no inclination to connect with anyone except for communicating by way of technology.

In thinking about this issue of READY, I went on the hunt to interview current and former customer service professionals. It began early one morning as I was in my local community grocery store.  I was asked to bring a couple bottles of champagne for mimosas to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. With several bottles in hand, I looked for a checkout counter with a live human: There were none. It would have been easy to use self-checkout, especially given my desire to arrive at the celebration on time; however, I had made a commitment to do my part to keep customer service staff employed.

Off I went, searching for someone to check me out. Each employee I encountered oddly looked at me and said, “Self-checkout is open” to which I replied, “Yes, but I’m trying to keep people employed.”

The interviews for the current issue of READY took a path that I never saw coming. How can I credibly launch and publish a magazine addressing social justice, social gathering and our next theme, social good, unless I myself focus on people of different backgrounds, ethnicity, nationality, demographics, educational level, worldviews, and economic status, 100%.

In interviewing an older woman who was finally dispatched to the checkout counter at the grocery store, she leaned in with a smile and said, “Thank you!” Thank you for giving me something to do, she said.

I began by asking her, “If you are not on the cash register, what are you instructed to do?”

Her response, “Nothing. I sit in the break room until I hear on the radio to go to my register.” What followed her response angered me. “I’m clocked out until I am on the register.”

What? So, if you are not standing here ringing up items and bagging groceries, you’re in the break room off the clock?

Her whispered reply was, yes. Granted, she was considered part-time, but still I found that particular policy appalling!

My next interview was with a high school student working at a major national retailer; just throw an arrow and you’ll find it. He happened to be the person called to work the cash register as I approached seeking a non-self-checkout line. He remained on the clock during his working hours; however, his employment status had recently changed from part-time to seasonal due to the lack of shoppers choosing to be “processed” through a lane with a live person.

So, now I’m processed? My apologies, I digress. He described a meeting where it was shared that in order to maintain their status, they must process a certain number of shoppers per hour without seeing a decrease in their hours, work schedule, or risk possibly losing their jobs.

Next came my experience with airline customer support as I needed to make a ticket change due to inclement weather during my trip. This was automation at its worst. The airline’s app could not help me, getting online was not working, leaving as the only option to speak with a customer service representative.

After more than two-hours on hold, finally a person appears with this greeting, “Thank you, Ms. Dudley for your patience. We are backlogged with customers during this high storm season. We do apologize for your extremely long wait. We just do not have the manpower to serve everyone quickly due to layoffs and downsizing the customer service department.” That was a mouthful! I accepted the apology and proceeded to ask questions about her position as a customer service person realizing that the call was being recorded.

She informed me that many of her friends had lost their jobs. So many in airline customer support are discouraged and taken advantage of daily. She said that in her department, their calls are timed and they are evaluated based upon how quickly they can end a call. She insinuated that the company’s IT department were in the midst of writing a program that forces callers to utilize automated support and not speak with a live person, placing a greater number of jobs and employees at risk to lose their jobs.

Tweetable: #WhenYouDontKnowWhatToDo ask for a live human to help you check out your groceries. Bypass the prompters so you can speak with a customer service rep. Do what you need to do to help someone keep their job. @GailDudley #EmploymentStatus

I’m all for efficiency. As an entrepreneur, I understand companies balancing ways to save money while taking care of their customers. However, I have questions, and I encourage you to engage in what I have to ask. This article is not about giving answers, rather it is a call to action; something stirred within me to challenge people to think and act. I want to make a difference and see a world where people are valued on every level. Social and racial justice are two areas where I am passionate, and there’s a connection with having people employed that has created a greater awareness for me.

I’m ready to do something about it. What about you?

1) How can we support businesses where there is a need for customer service employees, but a decrease in resources to fund those positions?

2) As customers, how can we be intentional, slowing down to find live cashiers, supporting their jobs including increasing their hours?

3) Is there a way to balance technology while supporting live customer service personnel?

4) Do we understand the need to keep people employed?

NOTE: Originally published in READY Publication Summer 2019. www.READYPublication.com

Pin It on Pinterest