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.)