Don’t help Superstore screw its workers

I guess it was only a matter of time.

Yesterday, while shopping at the Liverpool Superstore, I noticed three checkout lanes had been moved or removed in favour of six automated, self-serve kiosks. They weren’t operational, but they looked ready to go at any time.

To parent company Loblaw, these machines no doubt represent the best possible employees. No pay, no benefits, no vacation, no breaks. Customers are forced to do all the work free of charge. Why, they’re a shareholder’s dream!

I emailed Loblaw public relations this morning and followed up with two phone calls. I was looking to hear the company’s rationale for introducing these checkout drones, but no one acknowledged my email and no one answered my calls. (Both went to voicemail and no one had phoned back at the time this was published.) Maybe they don’t care about some small-time journalist in small-town Nova Scotia. Or maybe they know there’s no credible way to put lipstick on this pig.

Listen, we’re not talking about a mom-and-pop store that’s struggling to survive. We’re talking about a corporate behemoth that had net earnings of more than $1.5 billion last year.

Just like self-serve gas pumps and automated bank machines, these new checkout stalls will eventually cost some people their jobs and rob others of much-needed hours. Any efficiencies the company might realize in this endeavour are more likely to raise stock dividends than improve employees’ pay rates. Indeed, the company’s shareholders recently voted against a proposal that Loblaw study providing its store workers with a “living wage.” (Collude to fix bread prices? Sure. Examine fair pay for employees? Hard pass.)

I’ve allowed myself to be sucked into using job-killing technology in the past. (Bank machines, primarily). But I’m taking a stand on this one and will not use automated checkouts, no matter how long I have to wait to be served by a living, breathing cashier.

I’m taking a stand in the hope it might help save someone’s job or preserve someone’s hours.

I’m taking a stand against corporate greed and the tyranny of mindless technology.

I’m taking a stand, folks.

Will you join me?

(NOTE: This column has been updated to clarify the reconfiguration of the Superstore’s checkout lanes.)

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5 comments

  1. I agree Scott, and like yourself will not be using them. I am paying for service, and a howdy-doody. Strange the Feds, have not jumped on this human replacement, to obtain taxation.

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  2. I would like to clarify that only one lane was taken out to make room for the new self serve registers.so instead of 6 lanes we now only have 5.i suppose it looks like more than one lane was removed because we moved our gift card rack to another location in the store to move the lanes down further to place our self serve registers.and as for losing jobs…this is false.we are hiring ten more cashiers.so even though we lost one lane we still need a cashier to run the self serve.on busy days we would use 2 cashiers.i find it disheartening to see so many negative comments.not to mention false accusations made in regards to a new change.we are all entitled to our opinions.i fully understand why people may think the machine has taken our jobs.but this simply isnt so.i can also state that while some customers were hesitant at first, they were open to the idea of having myself guide them threw the process of using the new registers and quite enjoyed it.small talk was still exchanged.so with that being said to each their own.we are still here to help our customers whether on regular registers or self serve.i feel it’s important to state facts and not false accusations.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. FYI, shortly after publication, I clarified the configuration of the checkout lanes. As to your comments about additional staff being hired, this often happens when new technology is introduced, but it doesn’t last. That’s why, in my column, I said the loss of jobs and hours would happen “eventually.” Once enough shoppers are trained to use the automated checkouts, I have no doubt these new hires will be gone in short order. Then the cuts I am warning about will begin. The new hires are trainers. Once the training is done, they’re gone. It is sad to see workers being coerced into training customers to take away their jobs, but that’s how corporate greed operates. Good luck to you and your colleagues. I sincerely wish you all the best.

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