This afternoon, I went to an eatery of the fast-food variety with my family. For liability reasons, I’ll be a good boy and not name the establishment but suffice it to say that I spent almost a decade working at one, during my late teens and twenties. During our visit, I noted a number of changes to this establishment from when I used to work there. And in the face of those changes, I can only say this: I’m disappointed.
Back in the day, everyone had to order their food from a front counter till, handled by a live, flesh-and-blood human being. At my location, we had a general rule that no person was to stand at the counter for longer than thirty seconds before being approached and helped. This meant that even if you were in the middle of doing something else, you HAD to approach the customer, even if it was to tell them that you would be right with them. There was a face-to-face requirement when you ordered and received your food, and as such, there was a level of service that was only bested by the old days when girls would roller skate up to your window. The customer was the top priority! After all, without the customer there would be no need for me. Oh, how times have changed…
These days, one is usually expected to walk up to a touch screen terminal to place one’s order. Once done, you have the option of paying at the terminal or if you’re told school and have cash you can pay at a till, although there will likely only be one available. Then you either have the food delivered to your table (which I’ll admit is kind of nice) or you wait for your number to be called, something akin to being at a butcher’s counter.
I can’t say that any of this is really of any benefit, as I’ve noted that there always seems to be at least four of five people who return to the counter to complain about something amiss with their order. I can’t help but feel that this lack of human contact at point-of-purchase plays a significant role in this lapse. In fact, on the few occasions where I’ve been missing an item or required something extra, such as a fork or spoon, I’ve often been left standing at the counter while several employees ran back and forth. Even when calling out, I’ve rarely been acknowledged and usually make do without the item I was looking for.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to bash fast-food establishments. They aren’t unique in this phenomenon and this kind of automation seems to be evolving into the expected norm for most establishments. And if it weren’t for the availability of play structures at some of these locations, I’d probably lose my mind trying to get Nathan to burn off excess energy.
The point I’m trying to make is that face-to-face communication is fast becoming a dying custom in modern society. The advancement of our technology is eliminating our need to directly interact with people and if you pay attention, you can feel its noticeable effect.
The human condition is still as such that we need that interaction with one another. Our humanity depends on it. Although technology can have some fantastic benefits to how we live, we shouldn’t let that technology be our only contact with the world. ☯