Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Should we stop worrying about protecting jobs considering there are staff shortages?

Asked by JLeslie (65558points) September 12th, 2022 from iPhone

This Q sort of piggy backs my self check-out Q.

Yesterday a friend of mine wrote on Facebook she doesn’t use self check-out, because she wants to protect jobs. That’s what started me thinking.

A few weeks ago another friend posted that Denny’s has robots serving food in some locations. I assume it’s true, but I didn’t research it. The person posting didn’t like a robot doing the work for many reasons.

Where I live restaurants are having trouble hiring enough people, and from what I understand that’s happening a lot of places.

I prefer customer service from a human being, but I also dislike seeing people overworked because of staff shortages or businesses closing because they can’t get staff.

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37 Answers

seawulf575's avatar

Part of the effort to use technology to replace humans is economic in nature. The company can make a change in policy, such as using more self-check out, to avoid paying for extra workers. Every worker comes with all sorts of other headaches…personalities that can clash, need for oversight to make sure they are doing a good job, pay raises, benefits, personnel to do payroll and HR things, etc.

Another aspect is the push for an increase in minimum wage to $15 across the country. It was predicted when that was proposed that it would actually result in fewer jobs because companies, especially smaller companies, will want to keep down overhead. Technology allows them to do that.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Those are business side explanations. My intent with the Q was to ask about your experience and thoughts as a customer and any concern you might have for the employees.

seawulf575's avatar

I feel the “business side” is a big part of the discussion. Take the $15 minimum wage issue. The workers are demanding more money…more than the job likely warrants and oftentimes more than the company can support. So the jobs go away in favor of technology. The workers demanded more money but were replaced instead. I feel bad for the folks that lost their jobs, yes, but they also need to be realistic about some of the jobs they are talking about.

The aspect that I do believe we are losing has nothing to do with the convenience (or lack of) of self-checkout. It is the same thing we are losing by the huge increase of online sales. We are losing the social interaction of our community. You no longer interact with other humans, you no longer invest in community, and pretty soon you are in a situation where people are not needed for many of the jobs.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I keep hearing about staff shortages yet we added a half million jobs in July alone. Maybe my town is lucky, but we don’t have tons of people out of work. Most places where I dine still have their complete staff as most returned after the pandemic drew to a close!!! We don’t have robotic servers…yet. Yes, Walmart is using the pandemic to cut out jobs, but that is their greed…NOT lack of people willing to work!!! Corporate America is using staff shortage as an EXCUSE to not hire & thereby increase their profits. It’s mostly BS!!!

I do use the self checkout at the store because there are only 2 human cashiers & the line is so freakin long for them that I can check myself out & be home with all my bags unloaded & put away before I could make it to next in line for the cashier!!! I dread the day when my server becomes a robot, but NOBODY in corporate care what I think!!! The one thing I don’t see is any CEO offering to take a reduction in pay in order to help save their company…yet they begrudge the guy on the bottom for wanting to have a pay that will cover his rent!!!

ragingloli's avatar

There is no staff shortage. There is a companies-willing-to-pay-fair-wages shortage, and workers seem to have finally woken up to the fact that they do not have to debase themselves like that.

JLeslie's avatar

@seawulf575 I just think the business reasons are a given. I reluctantly voted for the $15 minimum in FL. I never really agreed with that increase, you can see me state it on many many fluther Q’s from a year or two ago. I was in favor of $12. It’s unfortunate we didn’t have more than one choice. I blame it on both the progressives and the conservatives. Republicans wanted zero increase, and I was boxed into voting for $15 or showing support for no increase. Politics suck in our country.

Regarding this Q, I’m just asking about how customers feel not the business reasons why AI, machines, and robots are being added to customer service jobs.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli It’s not just money, employees were being abused in other ways too. Many of those jobs are physically exhausting, horrible hours, customers can be abusive not just employers. Many employers are paying more now in the US.

hat's avatar

@seawulf575 is my favorite anti-capitalist. Nobody does a better job of explaining why capitalism is a nightmare and doesn’t work.

ragingloli's avatar

And it needs to be repeated once again that capitalism is not a one way street, or at least it should not be, despite all the “no one wants to work anymore” slander that corporate propagandists like to throw around.
As it is drilled into our heads by the high priests of Mammon, the “free market” is supposed to be a realm where equal actors enter into voluntary business relationships with each other (disregarding the fact that due to the disparate power dynamics between companies and single indiduals, there are no “equal actors” in the employer-employee relationship).
By that very nature it means that what a job should pay, or what that work is worth, is not just established by the employer dictating what they are willing to pay, but also what the potential employee is willing to accept as pay.
Contrary to the common corporate narrative, it is not just the companies that are “running a business”, with workers being nothing but peasant drones that should be fucking grateful for the scraps they get to pick from the filth ridden floor. No, employees are running their business, too.
While companies sell products and services, employees sell their time, their bodies, their aquired skills, and they have as much a right to set the price for those according to their needs and wants, as companies have in setting the wages they wish to pay. And just like companies have a profit motive to operate, so do employees.
I am not running around crowing how “no one wants to sell super cars anymore” or that there is a “super-car shortage”, just because Ferrari refuses to sell me one of their cars, because they disagree with my decision that their cars are only worth 100€ a piece.
The previous fact that companies paid as little as 7$/hour for positions, is not because that is what those positions are worth. It is because, due to the destruction and demonisation of trade unions, workers had no bargaining power to get better deals.
And fortunately, at least for now, that seems to be changing.

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie I think politics suck because there can be no middle ground and we keep trying to push the country in different directions.

seawulf575's avatar

@hat Glad I can help you out. Ever find anyone that has proven a different economic effort has worked?

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli workers being nothing but peasant drones that should be fucking grateful for the scraps they get to pick from the filth ridden floor. No, employees are running their business, too.

I could not agree more with this statement of yours.

When the economy collapsed back in 2007ish time frame the message all over was the be grateful you had a job, any job, and it pissed me off! Just opened the door for employees to be abused. All parts of the news were chanting to be grateful to be abused. Even jellies were fighting me on it. Buying into the bullshit that retail workers want to go to work at Midnight the night of Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, how do you feel about having robots, machines and more self service rather than people providing the service?

I’ve always been ok with technological progress that can relieve laborers of the hardest most physically strenuous and dangerous types of work.

ragingloli's avatar

It all comes down to two questions:
1: Why?
2: What happens to all the people that lose their jobs?

1: Why automate something? In a factory, I can see it, because machines can do that repetitive task faster and with more precision, and you do not put people at risk in the vicinity of heavy machinery.
But in a b2c context? Self-checkout is not adding any value to the customer. It is slower, more annoying, and makes the customer do work, for free, what a cashier previously did.
In a sense, the company is using your free labour to save money.
And as for robots, I am reminded of this video of a sausage robot trying to put a sausage in a bun and failing spectacularly.
So what I am seeing, is a quest for automation that seeks to replace humans with machines that do an objectively worse job, to save money. And that I am against.

2: Human civilisation will have to seriously start thinking about what will happen to all the people out of work, when more and more jobs are done by machines. This future is becoming less and less hypothetical. Already you have on the horizon the elimination of truck drivers in favour of self driving trucks. The elimination of taxi drivers by robo-taxis. Graphic designers and photographers are now seeing their livelyhoods threatened by the emergence of sophisticated art-creating AI. And that is not just me saying that. Professional photographers are saying it.
And I am sure that Boston Dynamics, whose robots can run a parkour course and do backflips, could probably create a robot waiter in not the too far future.
Conservatives would probably say that people should adapt, and if they do not adapt, die.
I say that the future will require a complete overhaul of economic systems.
UBI may be a good start.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli I agree with your point about whether the change is adding value to the customer. Some technology does add some subtracts. I guess we are in a learning curve with this sort of thing. It’s up to the public and labor to push back, but I don’t think it can be a simple rejection of not wanting to take away jobs from people.

Take curbside pick-up at stores. I wonder if that saves on payroll for the stores? I don’t see how. They have to have an employee shopping for the goods in lieu of a customer.

Self-driving trucks still makes me nervous. Supposedly, they are already on highways where I live. Are truck drivers harder to find now? I don’t know.

I am open to the discussion of UBI, but I think it will take a big overhaul, as you state, actually I usually say it will take a cultural shift, to really make it all work. In the US I see one thing changing, but not simultaneously with another, and so then it will fail and become even more political, rather than working together to tweak it.

I think the movement should be towards a shorter work week, reasonable pay (meaning higher pay at lower levels and lower pay at the higher levels, but still some gradation) and I have to throw in a much better more socialized health system or at least a health system with regulatory caps on pricing. If we add a UBI, it needs to be low enough not to discourage young people from working, because I think it is important for many reasons.

I do think the US need to promote a culture of sharing skills. Where I live the community provides the buildings and we provide for each other classes for “free.” This concept could be done around the country. We are productive even when we are not “working” and we can do it because we have enough time and money without working.

One of the big problems in the US is Socialism and Capitalism are pitted against each other in politics, rather than understanding some of the most socialized countries are also considered some of the most capitalistic countries, like Sweden.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

It’s even worse than companies not willing to pay more than minimum wage. Fast food places here are getting enough applications from people willing to work. They’re not being hired and “staffing shortages” are being used as an excuse to get by with fewer employees and reductions in service quality. That fact came out for a burger joint here. I’m sure others are doing it.

I think UBI is inevitable at this point. Half the office work people do are quickly becoming B.S. jobs now anyway. They’re mostly unnecessary. There is no reason for people to drudge through manual labor when there are safer, cheaper and more efficient ways to do it. We are a quarter way to UBI now considering the social programs we have and the vast amount of people on things like food stamps. It’s almost 20% here in Tennessee. We’ll have UBI but we just won’t call it that.

jca2's avatar

Here, in some local FB groups, there’s talk about Starbucks and other fast food places being short staffed and having a reduction in their opening hours because of no staff. Then people comment about being screamed at by customers and stuff like that. People are tired of being treated like shit, $15 or not. There are videos on YouTube of customers flipping out, going off, having meltdowns because they got the wrong cheese on their sandwich or other stuff like that, all over the country. There was one guy, here in Long Island (NY) who flipped out on the coffee making girls because something was wrong with his order. He ripped the phone out of the girl’s hand when she was trying to call 9–1-1 and long story short, his job found out (a good Wall Street type job) and he lost his job.

jca2's avatar

Here’s the one I’m thinking of. If you put in “Customer freaks out in coffee shop” or “bagel shop” you’ll see a million others:

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 Wow, that man was horrible and scary. However, I do wonder why he was so angry? Nothing justifies his behavior, nothing, I would have called the police also. He was threatening and assaulted the women verbally and physically, but customer service often sucks, and it is incredibly frustrating. Employees aren’t trained by companies like they used to be. The whole country is stressed out with how difficult so many of interactions are.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

People were like that 30 years ago when I worked fast food. It’s not new.

Pandora's avatar

I think people are overlooking unions. They are short-staffed because a lot of companies don’t want unions and people want liveable wages and benefits and job security. Like Amazon has a horrible reputation for workers. Too many hours, and they have to work at mad speed all day and very few bathroom breaks. Many leave because of the high stress and poor safety regs. The pay is good for a lot of people but not at the expense of their health and well-being. They recently got unionized but they are still working out the details. Other things that company do is that they often don’t promote within. They have people learn the jobs of supervisors and then after months of doing the job hirer someone outside of the company with no real knowledge because they have a college diploma. Meanwhile they overlook the worker who has been doing the job for years and now they have to train the new hiree.
Year ago you were rewarded for doing more by being promoted. Now, they expect you to stay doing the same job and your bosses job with no reward of being promoted.
My point is, one of the problems as to why there are job shortages is because companies manage their employees poorly and then expect them to stick around.
When I lived in Delaware, I went through 4 jobs. Each was a step up. I felt I didn’t own any of those jobs loyalty since they gave crappy wage increases and were never promoted within.
Companies want loyalty but won’t show any themselves. What goes around comes around. Treat employees like they are disposable and you get disposed of.
My dad works for a restaurant when I was a kid. He stayed with them for years because they treated him well and appreciated his hard work. They always promoted their employees and gave them living wage increases. Of course, they also had a union, but they were never short-staffed.

janbb's avatar

Staffing shortages are a short term problem; giving people good jobs with living wages is what is needed long term.

Jaxk's avatar

I can’t tell if we have too many workers or too many jobs. It sounds like you all don’t want jobs automated but don’t want menial jobs either. It’s those menial jobs that are being automated. If I need a ditch dug I can hire three laborers with shovels and get it done in a day or I can hire a backhoe and get it done in an hour. It sounds like you all want me to hire the labor but just pay them more. Sorry but paying them more only makes me want the backhoe even more. If you want more money, you have to add more value. That’s how it works.

We’ve been raising minimum wage for a couple of years now and all we’ve gotten is out of control inflation and automation. Wages, even with the doubling of minimum wage, are not keeping up with inflation. You’re chasing down the wrong rabbit hole.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jaxk I’m ok with some automation, I’ve never been against automating, but generally I think of it being efficient and logical in terms of factory work, or very dangerous work, or even places like farms, but customer service type jobs it depends on whether the automation hurts or improves the service.

I think it’s not black and white. I don’t believe in telling business they can’t automate, they can do what they want, but if their service goes down it’s not going to help them in the end. I feel like there is an in-between with many of these things. If a robot brought my food to the table I’m fine with it.

Jaxk's avatar

Sounds like you’d be fine with the old automat lunch machines from the 50s. No visible employees just select your sandwich and eat. I’d be fine with that as well.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I order grocery delivery whenever I can. I use self-checkout whenever I can; Unless I am paying cash. Some stores are experimenting with automated automated self-checkout; Where your Smartphone makes purchases without using the self-checkout. You just walk out with your purchases.

JLeslie's avatar

I loved the Automat. I’ve mentioned it many times on fluther.

Edit: there were real people loading the food from the back.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, I loved it too. and Horn and Hardart, the company that owned it, had many loyal employees and were very good to them.

JLeslie's avatar

There are still Automats in The Netherlands. You can see it at the beginning of this video.

I just wrote on my other Q that I think McDonalds could have an Automat option and people would use it. Especially very large busy McDonald’s.

Forever_Free's avatar

I actually help the cause by dropping at least one jar in a random aisle every time I go to a grocery store. They need more help if everyone follows suit.
Cleanup, Aisle 4 and 6.

WhyNow's avatar

@hat “capitalism is a nightmare and doesn’t work.”

And yet here you are.

hat's avatar

^ You typed that.

Zaku's avatar

I don’t worry about “protecting jobs” much, but I do think a bit about roles I’d like people to be able to do, or that I’d prefer people do.

I do like to be able to talk to staff at stores, and have that be a normal occasion. Though if and when tech makes them have to do less work, that’d be fine.

I’m a bit concerned about the “AI art” that’s been taking off lately, and how that might tend to put already-struggling illustrators in a tight position, both in terms of paid work, but also in terms of people getting to do art and be appreciated for it, not replaced by “gee an AI can do that easier/better/faster” etc.

However, I think it is inescapable in the long run that the entire concept of “jobs are good and necessary for The Economy, and everyone should need to work hard to earn their right to be supported by society” IS GOING TO NEED TO BE REPLACED BY A VASTLY MORE HUMANE SYSTEM, because for many reasons, I think that is going to need to end. Not just automation and computers replacing jobs, but I don’t think our current economic systems will continue to work very much longer. The transition to whatever’s next will of course be confusing for people used to the old ways of thinking and doing economics, and thinking those are universal and timeless. But I think the old economic game has an end game phase that we’re heading toward.

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