The collapse of service

Shopping has undergone momentous change.

For instance, formerly grocery stores were a small outlet run by a sole proprietor. He would take orders from a customer, pack the goods and a cashier would collect the payment. Telephone offers were accepted, and that same day delivery was made.

Nowadays, a great deal of service has disappeared.

Shoppers must go to a chain store, push a cart down an aisle, fill a basket with the desired merchandise, and go to a cashier who would collect the charge. Even that has been revamped; customers can go to a screen, determine the amount owed, place their credit on it and pack their purchases.

This self-service has become widespread, almost omnipresent. Nearly all gasoline stations are self-service. Hitherto attendants would pump the fuel, check the tire pressure and all levels, and wash the windshield. No more.

If one were to go to a department store, in all but a few retailers, a customer must go to great lengths to find a sales clerk, and often it is one who may be pre-occupied. For assistance with selection the customer is referred to the store manual or the internet. All measurements are made by the customer. Alternatively, the shopper must go online or patronize another store.

Travel agents seldom offer worthwhile advice. One has to use a smart phone to obtain any help, so probably travel agencies will disappear.

When one arrives at an airport, first a scan machine must be used for a boarding pass, then one must weigh and tag their luggage, pay for luggage handling, and look on a screen for the departure gate.

This self-serve is a double-edged turn of events. It may help a retailer’s bottom line by dispensing with sales personnel. On the other hand, by eliminating any personal touch, online shopping gains adherents and customers may focus on price. Too, entry-level jobs are vanishing, which is unfortunate for young people.

Some, of course, have followed a different course. Virgin Atlantic Airline offers a pleasant waiting room, reading material, soft drinks and obliging, courteous personnel.

In general, the disappearance of service outweighs any benefits.

It adversely affects the quality of life, as shopping becomes merely something to endure.



Bruce Whitestone