The Pitfalls of a Virtual World

Most people have had an awful experience when it comes to customer service at some point in their life, but now we’re facing a world where increasingly we can’t get customer service at all. Humans are being replaced by machines and AI technology. We’re seeing an increase in self-serve, self-check-out, automated so-called service providers and more. It’s tough to get to speak to a live body anymore, whether in person or on the phone.

COVID has fast-tracked this trend as more and more businesses (and shoppers) went online.

Freshii’s – one of the fastest growing restaurant chains – are embracing this trend. Most locations in Canada have switched to virtual cashiers. Upon being greeted, you receive a pixelated or buffering smile from “Percy”. No, it is not Percy Jackson, but their virtual cashier kiosk. The Freshii brand purports to be on a mission to help the citizens of earth, yet they’re laying off their cashier employees to save costs. It’s hard to reconcile a self-proclaimed eco-friendly brand that’s not human-friendly or employee-friendly.

Countless years of service from employees are being neglected once again. The issue is not of individuals in developing countries making a few bucks an hour to sustain their needs. The concern is the apparent wholesale buy-in to so-called convenience at the cost of human jobs and human connection. This trend will see the disappearance of a fairly paid workforce and the downfall of trade unions if we don’t start taking action.

Think twice before you use a automated teller, or self-serve check-out. Be intentional about supporting businesses that value their employees. If our own trade union members do not recognize the value of their union brothers and sisters and step up to protect their livelihoods wherever possible, who will?

Workers have always been the backbone of our industry and growth as a species. They have made many sacrifices through history to ensure the legacy of workers’ rights to be respected and treated with dignity and to make decent living wages.

The need for unions to rise is now … before there are no jobs to protect anymore.

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