A friend recently posted the following image to Facebook, which had the following caption appended to it: "Is this how you feel too? My how times have changed. Used to be there were tons of cashiers. Dressed in uniforms."
This type of toxic sentimentality that pines for "the good old days" is so far out of touch with reality that it boggles the mind. For example:
Let's assume that a particular supermarket has 10 checkout registers, and these days they only staff three of those. (Which has been my observation quite often.) To staff the remaining 7 registers, you would obviously need 7 more employees. At $15 per hour, that comes to around $31,000 per year per employee, and around $218,000 for the entire store. However, that doesn't include benefits per employee like health insurance and such, nor does that include additional overhead like uniforms, bathroom supplies, etc. So let's estimate an even $300,000 per store to staff those additional cashiers. (Which still doesn't include any employees that will bag your groceries for you, by the way.)
In any event, that $300K has to come from somewhere, and so - obviously - it will have to come from increased customer revenue. With that in mind, if the store was to hypothetically raise their prices across the board by an estimated %10, the additional profits earned at your expense means that you could have those additional 7 cashiers. Of course, your monthly food bill will have increased significantly just for you to have your peace of mind, but that might be a small price to pay for your nostalgia. (Both literally and figuratively.)
However, if this hypothetical supermarket chain hired additional cashiers across all of their 1,000 stores nationwide, that would mean they would need to come up with $300,000,000 in order to ensure similar staffing across the country. That would have major positive and negative ramifications across the country:
- On the positive side, the chain of stores just created hundreds of new jobs.
- On the negative side, they just increased the cost of living for every single customer, to include every one of their new hires. As a result, most of those cashiers will need raises simply to make ends meet - and guess where that money comes from? (Hint: customer revenue.)
I should also like to add that none of this discussion takes into account the fact that the Food Stamp, WIC, Welfare, and Social Security programs would need to be restructured to match the increased costs, which creates an additional burden on taxpayers.
Truth be told, in many countries across the world you are required to bring your own bags with you to the store and bag your own groceries as you are checking out; no one seems to have a problem with that in those locations. Of course, there are many other countries where shopping means walking to a local meat market where fresh kills are hanging in a vendor's makeshift stand, and in many other countries you actually have to grow your own food or track and kill your own game.
Personally, I'd rather not have to put up with any of that. Nor would I prefer to endure having to interact with a cashier who clearly cannot stand their job and is questioning every life decision that led to their current station in life. Nor would I like to pay more than what I deem as necessary to buy my prepackaged, ready-to-eat sustenance.
With all of that in mind, it never bothers me when I get to skip the cashier line at a store, swipe my own groceries across a laser scanner, and ultimately pay a lot less for the privilege of living in the most-industrialized society in the history of humanity. I think self-checkout lines and everything that goes along with them are vital parts of a highly efficient system of commerce that our forefathers would have clamored to have had available to them. Waxing nostalgically about "better days gone by" is a useless exercise that fails to accurately appreciate the better days we have in the present.