Friday, November 25, 2011

Trends: On the Cost/Value of Human Life. (Self Checkout and Sign Holders)

There are two things that I noticed more and more over the past year, both having to do with everyday consumer retail experiences. One, is the presence of self scanning/checkout stations in stores. The other is people being paid to stand on the side of roads with signs attracting attention for retail establishments. These two things seem to be at odds with one another. When I consider them simultaneously the questions that emerge are: Is human labor so expensive to a retail operation that developing and implementing self checkout is cost effective or necessary to profitability? Or, is human labor so cheap that the cost of employing someone to do nothing more than hold a sign negligible?

I personally find it offensive that a store would implement technology that eradicates low wage jobs in my community and then asks me to do the work. I won't shop at such places.

Is there any form of labor with a lower skill requirement than holding a sign? Even the New York city equivalent, people foisting flyers on pedestrians requires some effort and the LA version has evolved into performance art. (See the Sherman Foundation post on Human Directionals.









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