I walked out of Home Depot yesterday without the merchandise I had spent a half-hour selecting.

I laid it on a stack of boxes near the self-checkout lines . . .  the only lines that were open . . . informed the one cashier supervising the checkout lines that I was leaving . . .  and why . . . suggesting that she inform the manager . . .  and I left.  I won’t be back any time soon.

Mind you, I’m no Luddite nor am I in any way so technologically challenged that I can’t manage using a self-serve register.  In fact, I’m a technology professional who designs large-scale computer networks and voice and video solutions for businesses and government / non-profit organizations.   I’m fine with using technology to improve our lives and make business more efficient.

I’m not okay with using technology to replace people.   

And self-checkout registers are only one tip of an iceberg with many peaks.

Not that being a cashier at Home Depot, Stop and Shop, or any other large retailer is a great career.  The same can be said any number of other non-skilled positions typically held by young people, those needing supplemental income to make ends meet or those whose skills have been rendered obsolete or whose positions have been “offshored” to places where people will work for compensation that doesn’t even conform to our utterly inadequate wage laws.

But every one of those empty check-out lines with the light off represents a person with one less opportunity to make ends meet, one less young person who can learn about what it means to work for a living, one less student who can supplement his or her income while working through school, one less elderly person who can supplement their Social Security check with enough additional income to put food on the table or keep the electricity turned on.

As more and more of these jobs that employ entry-level workers or those living on the edge are replaced with technology more and more of the people who would have held those jobs are out in the street, pushed further into the margins, and left with no choice but to depend on government programs.

I can afford to spend a few more cents on a lightbulb if it means there will be a register with a real person in it.

So while I will not claim that I will never set foot in another Home Depot again . . . they have dominated the market so thoroughly that we are often left with little choice . . .  I will consciously choose otherwise whenever I can.  I will take my business to the local Ace franchise even though it doesn’t have as much selection, is a bit out of the way, and may be a bit more expensive.  I will opt to go to the Lowe’s that is almost inevitably within 2 blocks of the orange monster – at least they always seem to have one or two real registers open.

I will not use an automated checkout line.

I will not allow an employee to use an automated checkout line to scan my purchases, sending a message to management that these devices are working.


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