Not enough workers!

I was at a local superket the other day.

I don’t know if your local shops are the same as mine, but around here we’re getting more and more do-it-yourself checkouts (where the customer does the scanning and paying themselves). More and more we’re seeing fewer and fewer actual workers on the checkouts, and more and more “closed” signs on the full checkouts of the supermarkets.

We’re experiencing what that means. It means we get days like the instance I’m about to relate to you, where there were lines of six to eight people with HUGE trolleys full, lined up at only two checkouts open in a supermarket. Everyone else had to either line up behind them, or self-serve it.

So there was me, with about 40 items in my baskets – plus a six year old to manage – scanning everything and piling bags up all across the DIY floor, blocking everyone’s way with scanned, bagged shopping that wouldn’t fit on trays that are designed to hold much less scanned shopping.

And a woman opposite me, in exactly the same predicament.
And a man next to me. Same situation for him.
And all of us NOT HAPPY about it.

Most stressed of all was the single check out attendant scurrying madly about, trying to help all of us every time something didn’t scan, or a machine demanded a salesperson to confirm something.

What has this to do with Aphrodite and women?

Quite a lot, actually.

Mostly it is women who work these low-paid jobs in supermarkets around the world. They’re overworked more and more as more women are laid off in favour of the self-serve machines, which are a cost-cutting (profit-making) exercise for the huge supermarket chains.

I’m not noticing any savings being passed on to us, the consumers. Are you?

Because of the lay-offs, there are also fewer and fewer of these unskilled jobs available to the women who may not have had the chance at an education, and who sorely need them. Or who need a few extra dollars to support their families. Or who are putting themselves through education. Or whatever.

It’s not just women of course, but the majority are women.

I’m sure by now some readers are calling me a “Commie” and signing off, figuring it has nothing to do with them in their own cushy life.

Good for you. Have a nice day feeling superior.

But these jobs are HARD. In a civilised world we should be doing what we can to ensure that jobs are fair and reasonable to work in. The woman who was doing the job of two that day on the self-serve line because the staffed check-out lines were closed wasn’t getting a fair deal. She was getting shafted.

I, as a consumer and user of the supermarket, was getting shafted too. I had to deal with my shopping all over the floor. I had to pick it up off the floor. Someone could have tripped over it and hurt themselves.

How would an elderly person – or a person with a back problem – have dealt with this situation?

The woman across the aisle dealing with the same problem, and the man next to me? They were getting shafted too.

The whole thing sucked. Maybe the shareholders are making a few more cents a year at all our expense, but I think they can go screw themselves.

What I did – the power and value of freedom

I complained. The overworked woman took more of her time, overworked as she was, to find a complaints line phone number for me. I thanked her and assured her it was nothing personal at all – I was angry at the supermarket manager.

I got the impression she really, thoroughly understood!

Then I went home, put my shopping away, and rang the complaints line. I asked for a job number, and have put it in my diary to follow up in a month.

Share our opinions

Another thing I’m doing is writing this blog post.

We consumers do have power. But if nobody complains about people being shafted, nothing will change.

Think you’re getting a better deal when a burger chain pays their workers less? Think again. They’re going to be overworked and tired and possibly make mistakes that could cost you your health. Or theirs.

Shafting people and not giving them a fair deal doesn’t benefit you. Not by a long shot. And do you really want to be a scumbag to save a few cents, making someone’s life a misery? If so, what sort of person are you?

The issues of decent working conditions and decent pay are women’s issues. They’re at the core of Aphrodite. If women are shafted at work, how can we be happy, healthy, functioning beings? And how can anyone we share our lives with?

Everything is connected.

So next time you go to a supermarket, or a burger joint, or anywhere you see there aren’t enough workers, take some time. Ask for the complaints number. Or to see the manager. Make a point of it.

Be the decent human being you were meant to be.

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