Friday, July 15, 2011

How Kroger Is Socially Conditioning You

From Eat the State courtesy of Dr. Menlo:

They hate people so much that they are quietly socially conditioning the populace and union-busting at the same time. I am talking, of course, about auto-checkout machines.

Listen, do you get extra money for checking out your own purchases? No, you do not. By opting in to do this task yourself, you are letting Kroger use less actual manpower, and they get to pocket the difference. You are doing their work for them. They are punking you like a real sucker.

When you go to a restaurant, do you go back into the kitchen and cook the food yourself? When you go to a movie theatre, do you go into the projection booth to start the movie, only after using their popcorn popper to make your popcorn?

But Kroger wants this group mental mind shift to be as innocuous as possible, so they quietly herd people like sheep.

More here.

Yeah, this is at the Winn-Dixie, too, which is where I shop now, but back in Houston I was a regular Kroger guy, and I still very much remember what I thought when they first introduced these automatic checkers: this is an uncompensated transfer of cost to me, the consumer. Sure, yeah, it was a bit fun at first, playing with the technology, figuring it all out, but it got boring fast, and it always takes longer than when you have one of the professionals doing it. Especially when something scans incorrectly, or the weight gauge in the bagging area malfunctions. You've always got to wait for the monitor person to come over, swipe their card, push some buttons, etc. Checking out is something of a hassle now, and an even bigger hassle later in the evening when they've shut down all the human run checkout stands.

Indeed, a year or two ago at the Winn-Dixie, during a late night rush, I had the woman behind me aggressively "offering" to check my groceries ostensibly because she "used to be a checker," but really because she was short tempered about the fact that she had to wait in line. I told her I was fine on my own. I thought about telling her the real problem wasn't me; the real problem is the company eliminating the jobs of people who used to do the same thing for us, efficiently and competently, for free. Instead, I kept my mouth shut. Others behind her were grumbling, too. Closest thing to a consumer riot I've ever seen.

The other day, I watched a great Q&A session with Noam Chomsky on democracy and public universities, and he kept hitting on the notion of economic "efficiency." Generally, "efficiency" means efficient for a given business, not the overall economy, not consumers, not the general welfare, not workers. So from that point of view, these automated checkout stations are very efficient indeed; they've replaced countless workers and saved the grocery stores using them lots and lots of overhead. But it's not very efficient for me, and you, too, for that matter. Actually, as currently configured, the only people they're efficient for are the people who own the stores. They've successfully transferred some of their labor costs to their customers. And hardly anybody has complained about it.

I try not to think about it too much, but when I do it's like somebody taking their "fuck you" finger and ramming it onto the bridge of my nose. Fucking capitalists.