Guest Blog Ed Cook

One of the things that bug me outside of the house is Self-serve check-out machines.  We have two large-chain supermarkets in town.  They both added self-serve check outs about 10 years ago.  One was quite easy to use, one was not.  The smaller chain supermarket in the next town has MUCH lower prices and no self-serve checkouts, so it is obvious that lowering prices was not the goal, increasing profit was.  I used them but they were unreliable enough that I stopped.  Then a couple of years later, I had a thought.  My kids are getting older and if I and others keep using them, teenagers and elders who do much of the check-out and bagging at these stores may not have jobs.  So with my morals and ethics in-tact, I stand in line with my groceries every time.

Recently I was at one of the big stores to get 2 or 3 items. I was in line (about 6 people in line) in the “Express” Line which was right next to the self-serve checkouts. There were 4 or 5 people waiting for the three self-serves. A store manager came by, recognized me, and said I might get through the self-serve line first.  I said I don’t use them.  He asked why. I told him that did not want to use them because they are costing some part-time employee a job.  He said they have a person “manning” the self-serves. I said, with a smile, “yes, one person for three check-outs”.  He said that was enough.  I told him that my two daughters had applied to work at the store but had not been hired. I asked him if he ever worked as a cashier. He said, “Yes, that was my first job with ‘Store Name’…” his voice trailed off.  “I get your point” he said. And he walked away.  Some of the people in the self-serve line had overheard, and moved over to the Express line with me.  One guy told me his daughter had applied at the store and was not hired either. I was very happy that happened.  Just using 2011, hard-economic-times logic.  I felt vindicated.

How many times have you wanted to order something on-line, or wanted info something about something on-line, had a question about anything, and could not even find a phone number to call.  Bugs the heck out of me.  They now want you to send an e-mail with a guarantee of a response in 24 hours.  24 Hours!!!  If you need service on something or how-to assemble/fix something you have already bought you probably need the help now not tomorrow.  They want you to order and PAY now, they’ll help you later.  Question on software? Go to live Chat.  You type in a question, they give you a canned computer generated answer which may or likely, may not be the answer to your question.  I have never entered a Chat question that came back with a real answer.  I have taken to typing in “I’m going to buy this at another location” in my e-mails to on-line retailers.  Are people that expendable?  Could that be why we have an unemployment rate of 9+, and based on the last few days, probably higher.

Another gripe, if you are looking for a job, you complete a resume, prepare a cover letter then have to apply on-line.  These on-line apps are screened usually by computer for eliminator items.  Some of these are skills based, so they are looking for the perfect match of skills to job description, which I have to believe rarely happens unless the applicant is bending the truth.  Another is years of experience.  I have known people with 5 years experience that are better than people with 20.  But if the job calls for 10+ years and you don’t have 10+ years, into the reject pile you go.  Salary…they ask what is your salary requirement.  They know what they want to pay but they ask you to GUESS what the pay range is.  Guess too high for your requirement, “See ya.”  Guess too low, they will probably bring you in because they might get a bargain.  There are other little tricks I have found.  Companies post jobs on-line that don’t exist just to see how many applications they get.  If there is a torrent, and that is the case for most quality jobs now, they feel vindicated to not raise the pay of their current workers because they know the incumbents can be easily replaced.  There are companies who post jobs, interview, maybe even a couple of rounds of interviews and they put the job on hold as the “re-evaluate the job requirements”.  Didn’t they give it some thought BEFORE spending the money to advertise and interview?

Speaking of the economy, first, have you noticed that the same Standard and Poors that downgraded the credit rating of the USA is the same firm that was giving prime ratings to companies that were practically insolvent in 2007?

Second, have you noticed that Wall Street is run by a bunch of Dopes.  One day the market is up because of reason (fill in the reason du-juer).  The next day, even though the good reason form day one still exists, the market is down because of a worry of day 2 that existed on day 1.  It is as if these very highly paid and allegedly very smart individuals forget the goods and bads that effect the market.  One of the things that hurt you and I and our 401k’s is so much trading now is done by institutions and computer program trades.  They are based on a level of a foreign currency exchange, or oil futures (don’t get me going on this) or some such measure, and the trades are not made based on the fundamental value of the company stocks being sold.  I have to believe this does not maximize value and can lead to the type of abuse we saw in the Financial Crisis in 2007 & 2008 and does not seem to be controlled by the shiny new Dodd/Frank act.  Oh by the way, you will see your bank fees going up even in the smallest banks to pay for the new regulation required by Dodd/Frank, but there is precious little new control aimed at Wall Street, where most of the abuse seemed to be.  Could it be that they have better lobbyists than small banks?  Hmmmmmm.