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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Re: the Walmart Interlude

I just imagined myself 10 years from now, standing forlornly in front of a machine that has substituted the live people at Walmart and having no idea how to make it do anything.

But some creep at the Walmart headquarters will save a few bucks automating these jobs away, so yay for progress.

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13 thoughts on “Re: the Walmart Interlude

  1. Were you obligated to go to this machine?

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  2. midprof on said:

    never fear, they have to keep at least one human to put the code in when the machine, as always, thinks we are stealing.

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  3. I have had a couple of conversations along these lines with my DH. He things all people will be gone from service jobs because they are not needed (DH is a bit of a misanthrope and very introverted); I think he is mistaken and he underestimates how much people need interactions with other people. The 5-min chat at the checkout counter, someone helping you beyond the call of duty like in your example, a smile or a wave from a stranger, those are actually very important and for very lonely people may be the only connection they get in the day. I honestly think that (just like with the abomination that are MOOCs versus being taught by real humans), people’s need for other people isn’t going away. Nobody will shop in a ghost town Walmart.

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    • Shakti on said:

      Yes. As now in LA county, it will be in the future every where that beautiful people will act delighted to see you in their service jobs.

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      • Yeah, Trump will never accept being served by anybody but people because who will he mistreat and humiliate if there are no humans?

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      • Shakti, I am not sure I catch your drift, but I assume you are saying that yeah, people in service jobs aren’t really happy to see you. Of course not, that goes without saying. But, as someone who grew up in a country where talking to a salesperson is like talking to a maximum-security prison guard with a bad case of heartburn, I will say that fake smiles are way better. Not acting like a miserable a$$hole while doing one’s service job is probably better for one’s job satisfaction, too. It’s easy to look down on people doing low-skill job and easy for them to look down on themselves and on those they have to serve. I am always impressed by people who do their jobs well and with dedication, regardless of what the job it. Years ago, we had a woman run the copy room on campus; she was paid probably not more than grad students, but was very proud of her job, took it very seriously, and was always upbeat when at work. Or the lady at my deli counter who was a medical doctor in the FSU for 18 years. Now she cuts me 1 lb of hard salami every week, and seems upbeat about it. I chat with her, know about her kid etc., and she says she volunteers as a nurse’s assistant at a hospital to keep the skills fresh. When I asked why she didn’t pass the tests and do the residency to be a doctor again, she said, “Maybe it’s enough being one thing for 18 years. I like this job, it’s not stressful; I like thinking about how many sandwiches I will make each morning, I like chatting with my coworkers and customers, my days go by fast.” I think service jobs may sound like hell to many people, especially the introverted ilk, but it seems there are people who actually don’t mind or even enjoy doing them. And, as I said, I am always impressed when I see people really take their job seriously.

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        • Shakti on said:

          What I meant by that remark is that competition for service jobs will be so much stiffer and redefined so much that only people who are very aesthetically pleasing and very good at emotional labor (which requires some acting now) will have them. Good customer service will go beyond merely being pleasant while doing the job properly and this will extend downward to very low level service jobs.

          Think of a good waiter, but on steroids.

          Many such service jobs are frustrating if you are genuinely the type of person who is a people pleaser since a lot of company policies and a lot of what customers want are at cross purposes. :/

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        • “But, as someone who grew up in a country where talking to a salesperson is like talking to a maximum-security prison guard with a bad case of heartburn, I will say that fake smiles are way better.”

          • Totally my experience! 🙂 In Russian-speaking countries everybody always mocks the “fake smiles of dumb Americans” but a fake smile is a million times better than nasty, mean behavior. Besides, the Walmart workers in question weren’t very smiley. They were very professional and helpful. Back in my country, asking for help like this would have made me the object of intense and angry ridicule. One can’t ask store assistants for any help at all or they get very angry. It’s a habit from back in the Soviet times.

          “I am always impressed by people who do their jobs well and with dedication, regardless of what the job it. ”

          • There is a lady in her 60s working at the convenience store who’s incredibly professional and seems very proud to do such a good job. I wish I could take students to see her and learn about workers’ pride.

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    • I agree completely that no machine can substitute for a human being in a service job. I wish these great people at Walmart were paid more or allowed to have a union. Two of them were clearly retirement age, and they still need this job.

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  4. Home Depot is already like this. I abhor self-checkout.

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