HIGHTOWER: Do-It-Yourself Checkout Lines

Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you deeper than you might want to go into what supermarkets claim is the latest in high-tech, "consumer convenience:" Do-it-yourself checkout lines. Yes indeed, no clerk to scan your basket of groceries, take your money and bag your purchases -- now, you get to do all of this yourself!Kroger is one of the brave adventurers pioneering this no-clerk policy, having installed the U-Scan Express System in 15 of its supermarkets. Likewise, A&P, Finest, King Sooper and Winn-Dixie are trying-out the technology. A Kroger spokesman claims that the U-Scan provides an "extra service" for customers. But, as Greg Denier of the United Food and Commercial Workers put it: "In general, making customers do the work for themselves is not customer service." [Bell] Bingo, Greg!Kroger also claims that this new electronic system is necessary because it's hard for the supermarkets to find workers these days. Wrong! It's hard for them to find workers without paying them a decent wage, and that's what's really behind this latest technological invasion of our lives.However, there will be at least one of us human beings left working in the store. You see, not only does the U-Scan system make you do the work, but it also doesn't trust you to be honest. So the supermarkets focus special video cameras on you as you "self-checkout." This, in turn, requires a clerk to sit hour after hour at a central station monitoring the video screens, ready to sound the alarms and bring in the gendarmes if you try to slip a Butterball turkey past the electronic eye.This is Jim Hightower saying ... It's all part of the Brave New World Order in which there is no service ... and no real jobs.Source: "Grocery shoppers can be own cashiers" by Chris Woodyard. USA Today: March 9, 1998.

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