Monday, November 14, 2011
Idea #10: Be A People Person!
I notice it most at the gas station. Previously, fill-ups were a stop and go transaction between me and a largish-box with a credit card slot. Now I get to run inside, slide my Bill Reid statue (the Americans do have something on us with the nicknaming of currency, what with all those handsome Presidents) across the counter and actually say "Please" and "Thank you" to a real, live, human person.
This is nice, because hey, who doesn't like to have a quick, polite encounter with The Rest Of The World? God help them, they may be the only adult I speak to in a ten-hour span.
But it's also nice because choosing to interact with the person means choosing to vote for their job with my money. I kind of like this math.
And now it has me noticing all the places where I can vote for people and their jobs: tellers for banking; librarians for book checking-out; cashiers for groceries. The one I noticed most recently that left me a bit flummoxed was parking: the parking attendant at Lonsdale Quay has been replaced with a machine and there is no Choose-A-Person option nearby. But generally, when I can, I'm choosing the person option and I think life is better for it.
I don't imagine it's altogether clear economically what is better though. If the parking guy has moved on to full employment manufacturing planet-friendly goods to be justly distributed across our land, then who am I to complain about walking to a machine to collect my free 2-hour parking ticket? On the other hand, if that was his only or best option for work and now it has been eliminated for the long-term profitability of the parking corporation, then yuck.
What I mostly notice is that we are being asked to replace our interactions with low-level staff with interactions with machines for the profitability of owners and in turn (one imagines), higher wages for high- and mid-level management. I guess those jobs are more desirable, but what happens when we have no work for the beginners? for the not-so-ambitious? for the Not-Management-Material-types?
When I vote with my money for those jobs, I also vote for those people and say that providing meaningful work (for surely there is some meaning in making sure I did in fact find everything I needed at the store today?) for everybody is worthwhile.
So the next time you get to choose between (wo)man or machine, consider the message you're sending up the ladder with your choice: the easiest way to redistribute wealth is through the employment of the many.
IDEA #10 Response:
Where have you seen a change from people to machines? Where have you voted with your money for people over profit, even when it was less convenient?