Opinion: Self-checkout limits communication development

Sophomore Ariana Fischer uses the self-checkout counter at St. Louis Bread Company.
Photo by Kayla Drake

ARIN FROIDL | Reporter

It started when I was young: Slowly, but surely, self-checkout kiosks kept popping up at all the county libraries I went to.

At first, I thought it was one of the coolest things ever — put a stack of books on the mat, and the computer could tell exactly what books were being checked out. It was brilliant technology, and I always asked my mom if we could use it, but she never wanted to.

We would always have to go to the desk and have the librarian check us out. It seemed like a waste to me; we have this amazing technology, so why shouldn’t we use it?

I just thought my mom was odd and old-fashioned. We would never use self-checkout anywhere.

When our local Shop n’ Save got one, my mom was determined to only go to a cashier’s line, even if they all had lines. Her reasoning was that these computerized checkouts were taking jobs away from cashiers and librarians alike.

The older I became, the more this made sense. When I go to the library now, the number of librarians working is far fewer than it was when I was younger. Now, at most of the libraries I go to, I can’t even get a book checked out by a librarian — it’s all self-checkout.

The librarians are there solely to answer questions and shelve books. They’ve been replaced by machines.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just occurring at grocery stores and libraries. It’s the same way at fast-food restaurants and, the newest trend, at actual sit-down restaurants. These restaurants still have waiters and waitresses, but the tables have tablets where you are supposed to place your order. This eliminates the need to communicate with the server completely; the server is there solely to wait on their patrons.

While removing the middle man of these transactions seems like a good way to increase productivity and convenience, it’s taking away an important aspect of these interactions: communication.

While removing the middle man of these transactions seems like a good way to increase productivity and convenience, it’s taking away an important aspect of these interactions: communication.

Growing up, having to place my own order or check out my books was a great learning experience. It was teaching me how to properly communicate with others what I wanted, and it helped to boost my confidence. For young children, these are good early steps to strong communication skills that they will use when applying for jobs or working in the field.

These self-checkout machines are also affecting the job market. Libraries now only need a few librarians and assistants. Restaurants don’t need as many servers because they have more time to wait on more tables. Fast-food places and grocery stores don’t need as many cashiers.

A lot of businesses that would be employing quite a few people, including high schoolers and college students, no longer need to employ as many people as before. It’s cheaper for them to buy a machine than pay a human.

These kiosks are so nice. I find myself using them more than I should. They are convenient and fast, and sometimes you just really don’t want to talk to a person, but if we only use these self-checkouts, then there will fewer and fewer cashiers and servers. They will continue to be replaced, and we will continue to lessen our own human interactions.

As nice as these machines are, is the convenience really worth the loss of jobs and actual human interaction?

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