By APRIL HURST
(Sept. 26, 2019) — The other evening I went shopping at our local QFC store in Enumclaw. After filling my cart I proceeded to the check stand and could not find one open. I was surprised that no one was working and wandered around a bit and finally ran into the only store employee we could find who was standing by the “self-checkout” area with other shoppers as puzzled as me.
We were informed that per QFC’s new corporate policy, there would no longer be clerks to check out groceries in the evening hours. Shoppers would have to use the self-checkout machines. The clerk was polite, but embarrassed. Finding no other acceptable option, we left and went to Safeway and bought our groceries there where clerks were manning two checkout stands.
I returned two evenings later to see if this was really the policy and found that again, no check stands were open to serve customers.
I started thinking about all the people I have gotten to know over the years who work at QFC. They are our neighbors and friends and are really great people. They are also our fellow community members. Evidently QFC plans to get rid of them and replace them with machines.
We have all seen stories recently about corporations ordering machines and robots to take the place of workers to increase corporate profits. Maybe we don’t pay enough attention when stories report that up to 42 percent of all workers in America will be replaced by machines in the coming years. Maybe it does not seem real enough for us personally. Well, it does now for me. All I can see now are the faces of my friends and neighbors who always greeted me with a smile at the check stand at QFC. None of them were there the last two times I went to the store.
In the end, every time we use a self-checkout machine, we are the ones who are laying them off and putting them into the unemployment line. What will people do when they have no jobs to support their families? What will young people do when there are no entry-level jobs helping customers bag groceries at retail establishments?
As they lay off workers by the hundreds of thousands and replace them with machines and computers, Amazon and car manufacturers may seem a bit abstract and distant to catch our attention, but I now see the faces of my local friends and good neighbors right here in Enumclaw, soon to be out of work, and I feel we are all partly to blame.
It’s time to stop using these self-checkout machines!
Next time you think of using a self-checkout machine, imagine the faces of our local friends and neighbors, and their families, who will not be eating that evening as you buy your groceries. Picture them sitting around an empty table, as you buy your food.
Don’t use these machines or allow them to control our lives. Stop shopping at QFC until they reverse this immoral policy and let them know how you feel. As a community, we can make a difference and support our local friends and neighbors who have spent a lifetime serving us when we needed them. That is what a community is. That is what it means to be an American.
April Hurst lives in Greenwater and has been a small animal groomer for the last 40 years. This letter to the editor originally appeared in The (Enumclaw) Courier-Herald and appears here with the author’s permission. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.