This is somewhat of an unusual post coming from a ‘technology addict’, but it came to me while standing in line at the grocery store. I remember as a child going to the grocery store with my family and to me, it seemed so much faster for the clerk to ring up our groceries on a register reading prices on items than it is today with the new scanner technology. I have even travelled to China back in the 80′s and witnessed clerks using an Abacus that were faster than clerks today using scanners. From my observations, there are two main causes for the decrease in speed using this technology over the more manual process used in the past. One is the fact that the bar code is not, or cannot, be placed in the same location on each item resulting in wasted time searching for the bar code so the item can be scanned. I have experienced this issue myself while trying to use the self checkout. The other issue is more related to human nature. When you rely on technology to do the work for you, you tend to not make the effort to get better and faster at your task. However, if the management of these stores focused more of their energy on training, the result would be an increase in the efficiency and speed of the checkout process. Unfortunately, there appears to be a move away from making the shopping experience less of a task on the customer. Service quality has been replaced by profit or cost savings. I know we all have had this experience. All too frequently we find retailers that want to sell you a product but once you buy the product, it is less important for them to support your experience with the product. Now don’t take me wrong, there are a lot of companies that do make the extra effort to make sure you are satisfied with your purchase and their service, but a large majority do not fall into this category.
For those of you into your 50′s, think back to when your father or mother worked while you were in your early teens. There were no cell phones, no PDAs, no answering machine, basically no way for work to get in touch with you unless they happened to catch you at home. So, this period of time resulted in much less stress and more free time to rejuvenate yourself before you went back to work. Today, many job positions require you to be accessible 24 hours a day or at least during all daylight hours including weekends. In other words, you never get a break to relax and enjoy time off from work. Imagine the stress this causes compared to the situation our father’s and mother’s lived in during the 60′s and 70′s. It’s great to have this technology, especially if your car breaks down or you have an opportunity to get a job that permits you to work from home using this technology, but it would be even better if there were limits placed on organizations on how much they can abuse their employees through the use of technology. I think technology is a good thing for the most part; it allows freedom in our lives to basically go anywhere and be connected. For example, in the past, how many times were you stuck at home waiting on an important phone call. Not any more! But there are certain scenarios where I would like to see limits on the use of technology in the workforce to lower the stress placed on employees and give everyone the opportunity to ‘Get Away’ completely. I would love to have a vacation where I did not have to check into work or log in to take care of business.