TARA COLLUM | Contributing columnist
The other day I was at Shoppers Drug Mart checking out and the cashier had to keep jumping off the register to help the people at self-check out.
She was the only one at the front and also had to answer the phone.
Self-checkout was making her job harder and it wasn’t getting me out of the store any faster.
At Dollarama it was worse. I didn’t have the option of a cashier to assist when things didn’t go swimmingly.
They did think ahead at the dollar store, all their selfies take debit, credit — and cash.
A security guard taught me how to use the machine.
Which seemed odd. Shouldn’t a security guard be on the lookout for theft, not doing double duty as a store clerk? I guess a little theft is worth what they’re saving with automation?
You can’t fight technology, right? Why am I even talking about this, isn’t it a done deal at this point? I don’t remember being consulted or signing off on it.
Allegedly retail is dead and online shopping has a lot to do with it.
It’s our fault for not shopping in stores — now that more of them are open. Or at least half-open.
Businesses need to protect their profits.
But if retail is so dead, why is Amazon opening brick and mortar stores? And, of course, all the Amazon stores are automated — with no cashiers.
But how dead is retail really? The crowds who descend on the Apple store like seagulls on a French fry every time a new iPhone is released, or the blocks-long lines of people trying to get in to Winners after nonessential stores reopened in Ontario are telling a different story.
Big business is not hurting for profit. How much profit will ever be enough for them? With automation they are prioritizing their greed above both the customer and the worker.
And where does it end? What part of a worker’s job will shoppers be expected to do next?
Stay on till and do a good deed and check out the person behind me? Grab a mop and clean up a spill for the privilege of shopping at Walmart? Will fast food restaurants automate the kitchen to the point where we can just hop behind the counter and make our own food?
It’s insulting to retail workers to assume their job is so easy the customers can just do it themselves.
Shopping shouldn’t be a stressful experience. Not everyone has the physical mobility or patience for self-checkout. It can be embarrassing to need help or to hold up the people behind you.
It’s also important to have human interaction. It’s nice to be able to chat with the cashier and see a friendly face.
Self-checkout can be an option, but it shouldn’t be the only option. And it should be the decision of the individual businesses when to use it, to best meet the needs of the community.
Especially communities like Gravenhurst that depend on jobs in the retail and service industry.
What good are businesses to the community if they don’t provide jobs?
As consumers we should also have choice. We shouldn’t be forced to use self-checkout if we don’t want to.
This unchecked thirst for profit creates billionaires, and we see what billionaires do with money. They pointlessly race each other in rocket ships.
Going to space used to be about scientific exploration, now it’s about tourism for the very wealthy. It’s not about who has trained hard to be an astronaut, but about who can afford the ticket.
So, what is it to me?
Can’t billionaires do whatever they want with their money? Jeff Bezos couldn’t keep a straight face as he thanked the customers and workers for paying for his flight to zero gravity.
Why did the Amazon CEO and its founder even go into space? Or at least as far into the atmosphere as he could get in under 15 minutes.
Did he have a bet with another billionaire (Richard Branson) on how much money he could waste?
Was it because people made fun of his cowboy hat and he wanted to make himself look cool?
He didn’t appear to have any epiphany up there. But empathy or self reflection can’t really be expected from someone who runs a company with no cashiers. A company of chronically overworked and underpaid workers who frequently keel over from exhaustion.
This tacky display of suborbital vanity couldn’t have come at a worse time. As we attempt to get back to normal, the environment is giving us reason for concern, with a summer of record-scorching heat waves, unprecedented floods and droughts — and out-of-control wildfires.
Bezos, meanwhile, is having the time of his life while hoarding an astronomical portion of the world’s money and boasting about his joyride being “the best day ever.”
Up, up and away with you, I say, Bozo Bezos.