Pushing Back Against Supermarket Automation: The Case for Human Service

In a world where we’ve passively accepted the collection and use of our personal data by social media giants for their profit, the rise of supermarket self-service machines follows a similar pattern.

Yet, the strong reaction to a recent article on Rossies FoodWorks in Griffith, a rare example of a grocery store eschewing automation, signals a possible resistance to this trend. The story of Rossies’ commitment to human service struck a chord online, with its Facebook post amassing over 100 shares and 2000 likes.

A poll indicated a significant distaste for automated checkouts: 70% of respondents expressed dislike, while 24% tolerated them, preferring human interaction. This begs the question, why do we let chains like Coles and Woolworths replace staff with machines that essentially make customers do the work, all while the companies earn massive profits?

The solution? We can choose where to shop. By supporting stores like Rossies and FoodWorks in Yenda and Driver, we can protest against faceless automation, even if it costs a bit more.

This form of rebellion has seen results globally. In the U.S., Walmart removed self-checkout lanes from three New Mexico stores. In the U.K., Booths supermarket axed automated kiosks from most of its stores after feedback on their inefficiency and lack of personal touch.

Misidentifying produce on these machines is typical – who can discern between a Pink Lady and a Royal Gala apple? It shouldn’t be the customer’s job. Supermarkets should employ staff for these tasks.

In small towns, supermarkets are key employers. As automation claims more blue-collar jobs, preserving roles like checkout staff is vital. While some view supermarket jobs as temporary, places like Rossies have staff who’ve served for decades. Ross Catanzariti, the manager, started as a 12-year-old in the 60s and is now a local icon. “We are like a family here,” says Rossies employee Cheryl Mott, a sentiment that draws customers for its familiarity.

Even Coles and Woolworths in Griffith boast dedicated, long-term employees. Considering Woolworths’ $1.6 billion and Coles’ $1.1 billion profits last year, there’s no justification for further layoffs. As consumers, we have the power to influence these decisions.

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