Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Thoughts on self-checkout

Last week I went to a store in the mall.  When I got in line, there were two cashiers each taking care of a customer, and a couple in front of me with an entire cart load of mostly clothes.  But it turns out the one cashier was going on her lunch break, so I ended up standing in line with my three items for almost ten minutes.

Not long after I got in line, two people got in line behind me.  There was an older woman and a man about my age.  I don’t think they were mother and son, but he might have been her nephew or something.  They had seen the one cashier leave – I don’t think they heard the reason – and they were talking – not loudly, just between themselves – about how with Christmas you would think the store would have more cashiers. 

At one point the guy said something about self-checkout, and the lady stated that she would never use one, and the guy said something about “they take jobs away from people.” I almost turned around to say, “Yeah, crappy jobs,” but I just shook my head.  But figured I could get a blog post out of writing up my thoughts on this topic.

Since I don’t make enough money with my books, I have a crappy part time job so I can pay my bills.  I spend hour after hour after hour standing behind a register lying to people.  Meaning thirty plus people an hour ask me “How are you?” and I lie by saying, “Fine,” or “Okay,” instead of admitting, “My feet hurt, my back hurts, I have a headache, and my throat is sore from making small talk with all you people.” In case you’re wondering, while I’m not the friendliest cashier at the store, I’m probably the fastest.

Now in the store I work at there isn’t room to put in the standard multiple self-checkout, but if they somehow put one in, I’d be thrilled.  Aren’t you worried about losing your job? I’m sure some of you are asking.  In theory, no.  Because me losing my job would have little to do with self-checkout.

These aren’t the actual numbers, I’m just using them to give the basic idea.  The store is open 100 hours a week.  And Corporate tells the manager that they have 300 hours of work for the employees.  Now if all the hours could be split up evenly, that would mean there would be three employees working at all times.  But that’s not what happens.  Once a week, we get a pallet or two of frozen/refrigerated items: ice cream, pizzas, eggs, etc.  Someone has to put it away.  And once a week, we get a semi that brings everything else in the store.  All that has to be put away.  And the stuff that doesn’t fit out right away, gets put in the back as overstock, and that has to be worked at some point to get it out of the way for the next load that comes in.  So on truck days, there are more people working, meaning that for large chunks of the week, there are only two employees in the store.

Especially now with Christmas, we pretty much need two people on register all the time.  Which means there’s nobody working overstock, or fixing the shelfs (people decide they’re not going to get a bag of chips, but instead of returning it to the chip aisle they just stuff it in with the diapers), or just basic things like sweeping the floor.  Basically, there is more work to do than there are people to work it.  So why don’t you hire more people? some of you are asking.  Because that would cut into Corporate’s profits.  Or they would raise prices to pay for the additional workers.  They are in business to make money, not to have the best store where everything is always put away, everything is always clean, and there are always plenty of cashiers.

In theory, if we had self-checkout that would mean there would be more time for people to do these other things than to be chained to a register.  Of course, if we got self-checkout, it’s likely Corporate would then only give the manager 200 hours of work. 

So don’t feel bad using self-checkout, thinking you’re taking away someone’s job.  It’s not that simple.

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