I miss travel agents. Once upon a time I was able to pick up a phone and tell someone (usually a woman, but not always) that I want to go to Boston on Thursday after 4 PM and return home on Friday after 5 PM. That is all I would have to say. Magically, tickets would appear on my desk, car rental arrangements would have been made and a hotel reservation would be all ready for me. And, my trip would be on my favorite airline; I would have my aisle seat, and all my frequent traveler numbers would be there. Now, my wife and I pore over various websites searching for the best deals – it can take hours of our time and we’re still not sure we got the best deal.
I was at Jewel recently, buying avocados among other things. I chose to use the self checkout aisle, since it appeared the shortest. Of course, that is just an illusion – I’ll get back to that. I put my avocado on the scale and did the lookup thing (there was no little sticker on my avocado with the little code number). Who knew there were 4 different kinds of avocado? Which one do I pick? There were no prices on the screen, so I couldn’t pick the cheapest (the logical choice). So, I just picked one. Probably paid too much. It used to be that you could save time in the self checkout aisle, but that was when it was new, novel. Now, lots of people use it and, like me that day, stare at the screen trying to figure stuff out. And, it gets worse when something doesn’t work right – scanning coupons being the most common problem I’ve observed. The whole process is slower than the paid checkout folks and it’s no longer the time saver it used to be.
It seems that we are doing more and more of the work in business transactions. They have shifted work to us. The corporations save on labor costs, and supposedly we benefit from lower prices, but I do wonder. Corporate profits have been very robust, even during this downturn. Perhaps some of that is because we now do work, for free, that they used to have to pay someone to do.