Machines that make you pay for your own work.
  • C\M
  • Machines that make you pay for your own work.

Self-checkout machines are the worst. They don't really do anything but make customers do all of the work at the expense of jobs that are badly needed by lots of people. (The grocery industry employs "1 in 10 Americans.") Their rise, which began in the early '00s, has not, true, been spectacular. A number of supermarkets do not use them (Trader Joe's, Red Apple, Whole Foods), and some are even abandoning them (Albertsons, Kroger, Ikea). But there is no justification for a supermarket to have even one of these machines. They are not like ATMs, they do not make things easier. They make you actually work and then pay for that work. The machines are just there, and nothing more. If there is a mistake, you have to solve it; if you don't have the code for a some fruit or vegetable, you have to find it; and when you are all done, you have to pack your own groceries. This is a job.

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I'm not a Luddite; I think certain operations are done better by machines. But technology is not driven by some kind of universal spirit. It's not the march of humanity through history. Yet, this is how they sell self-checkout machines. "It's part of being a modern grocery." It's all about progress, about efficiency, about saving you time and some money. Yes, some jobs will be lost in the process, but that is not more important than increasing customer satisfaction and moving our society forward to the brightest future imaginable. This is just a lot of rubbish. Where is the satisfaction in working not even for nothing? Working to give a business your money? The machines have to go. All of them. And humans must return to checkout stations.

I'm writing a long piece about this scam of scams, self-checkout technology, and would very much like to talk to people who have worked or are working in a business that uses them. Please e-mail me at charles@thestranger.com. Your identity will be protected.