Supermarkets should think about the importance of social interactions before getting rid of checkouts with staff - Daxa Patel
The plight of these people is hard to see and we should be moved when we see fellow humans in distress. That is the goodness inside of us that moves us to the core.
The other morning I was doing my weekly shop at a well-known supermarket in Kirkstall. I noticed the self-service checkouts had more space and the tills where customers queued to be served were reduced.
I always make it my business to say hello and enquire about the cashier’s day. While talking about this change, the lady behind the till said nobody had consulted the staff and the company had changed hands, so bosses were implementing changes to make cost savings, and reduce wages.
Any sensible manager or business owner knows if they ignore a sense of unease amongst their staff, they do so at their peril. It is one thing to implement change using artificial intelligence but when things break down, companies need real caring humans to step up to sort things out.
As we were chatting away and the lady was putting my goods through the till, she noticed I had a lot of dog treats. We started talking about her spaniel and then I shared a photograph of my German Shepherd. Behind me was a gentleman who immediately said he had raised six German Shepherds and they were a joy. It occurred to me that the three of us were having an uplifting conversation which we would not otherwise have had if we used the self-serving tills.
Many people only get to say hello to someone when they go to the shops or their supermarket. I wonder if the management of this supermarket has given any regards to their social responsibility towards the community they serve when they decided to reduce manned checkouts. I am not against innovation and operation costs, or indeed speed, but are we not killing society by depriving them of the basic human need which is human connection?
Most of us who deal with customers and clients will know anyone can acquire technical skills through education and practice but 90 per cent of what we do requires people skills, and more importantly, the ability to connect and listen. Most of us are not trained as counsellors, but doctors, hairdressers and supermarket checkout staff are all in the business of making people happier. It is a given. We crave to be seen and to be acknowledged. A simple question like ‘how are you?’ or ‘how is your day going?’, can make the other feel seen and acknowledged. This is the ordinary yet extraordinary goodness we are surrounded by everyday if we care to see it.
When we see or hear sad news there will be acts of human kindness that goes unnoticed. I saw an image on the TV while watching the news the other day of a man stroking the face of a toddler found stuck in the rubble in Turkey, the man kept saying to the child, ‘I am glad I have found you, you are going to be okay’. He wasn’t the toddler’s relative. This was an act of kindness by a stranger.
In our day to day life, we will meet many people only once in our lifetime, let us be kind to them and let us ask them how are you today?
Daxa Manhar Patel is a solicitor, author and executive coach.