Self Service Tills

Friday 31st January

I hate them.  They have removed the whole concept of service.  Supermarkets and Banks are rapidly becoming soulless places devoid of staff but filled with rows and rows of shiny machines.  It is I am afraid progress, though progress of a kind I would rather not see.  Automation has been going on for years, in Agriculture and Manufacturing there are far fewer employed, so what is my big problem.

Simply this, if all companies prefer to have machines working for them rather than people, and keep shedding staff it must come to a point where we have a split society.  A portion, probably about 50% will be employed in safe jobs, where they enjoy a high standard of living, security and a degree of personal wealth.  Then there will be another quarter of the population who exist from one short-term job to another zero-hours contract, constantly moving from cheap rooms to another bedsit, always short of money, no real credit history, desperate to get onto the wealth ladder.   The remaining quarter will exist in some sort of grey or black market economy where petty and large crime rub alongside each other, prostitution and violence are rife and these people know no other life and simply survive.

Some would say we are well on the way to this society anyway.  But continuing automation will only make it worse.  So, why pick on self-service tills.  Firstly because half the time they don’t work; almost every time I use one I have to call for assistance.  And secondly, at least a flesh and bones assistant has a smile and is helpful.  Exchanging a few pleasantries with a shop-server can lift your day.  And then, if I hear that stupid comment “unexpected item in bagging area” one more time I think I will scream.  The item is not unexpected – I just scanned the bloody thing and it has shown up on the screen.

I know I am fighting a losing battle, but soon there will be no high street banks at all, just machines and the internet and a 24hr helpline, where they never can actually help you.  And slowly we are all being turned into machines to service industry.  Our most important function as humans is now being consumers.  I write about this more in my new book, coming soon – 2066, a personal memoir.