Retail workers are seen as being more machine-like.


Daily service jobs have always been done by humans but lately the future of machines has influence the community in having a more error-free, efficient and fast service experience. In pop-culture, Customers are being more important and the idea of a machine has become a way of treatment toward retail workers. The stereotypes are seen shows and futuristic movies where technology has advanced that people don’t need people in service jobs anymore.



A pop culture artifact that I think reflects this idea is the TV show,  “What would you do?” This show often reflects a rude customer and has shown this type of sub human behavior many times in the staged situations in the TV Show “What Would You Do?” A TV show where they stage situations with actors who play rude customers and service workers, they do these social experiments to see if people will intervene. In one episode, the customer was angry at the barista for getting her coffee order wrong, she then proceeded to get others involved and started telling him that “he shouldn’t work here”, becoming rude from the way that he made her coffee. There was yelling done by the customer that she treated him sub-human and more machine.

Sub- human could mean many things; it could be treating an employee less human and more machine. From machine, it can turn into computers and that’s a reality that could be seen more in the future. Another artifact is the movie Wall-E. Wall-E is about a small robot living in a world without humans who gets put onto a ship where all the service jobs are done by robots while the humans get special treatment. The humans are treated with care and given everything in an insist. The machines are made for their specific jobs and the need for human service and human contact isn’t there when machines are in charge, there is a tone that the humans get mad when machines are not performing to their best from technical difficulties. The machines turn out to be evil and try to destroy life, the humans learn that machines aren’t needed for everything and that at one point, people things by themselves.

The future is seen using machines in service jobs. Machine are running the service industry because it can be error-free. The need for humans doing these jobs won’t be there anymore because these jobs aren’t valued as much. A closer reality may be the Amazon Go stores, a type of grocery stores where people at the check stands won’t be needed, people just simply pick up what they want and leave. This may get rid of the jobs entirely because they aren’t seen as being important jobs.                                  


The reality of sub-human and machine could happen in life but it would impact a lot more things than just losing employees. The use of humans in these jobs is still as important as a machine.  An article by Harvard Business Review, “How Self-Service Kiosks Are Changing Customer Behavior” by Gretchen Gavett explains that with the use of technology and self-service kiosks changes how people use human services and how it becomes a different attitude when using a app or talking to a person. Ryan Buell says “If you think about the places where we’re truly loyal, these are often places where we’ve had the opportunity to develop a relationship, right? So when you walk into a Starbucks you frequent, the baristas will know you by name and they’ll know what drink you want. You feel important. You feel special. Their job is more meaningful because they get to interact with you.” (Buell). As humans are social creatures, it’s always nice to see the same people and connecting with them and people feel important, I have had customers who would remember what I told them 2 weeks ago and what they told me. As a student, customers common ask me “how was school today?” or “do you have homework today?”  Resulting not just social contact in one direction towards the customer but also towards me.

The use of technology may be useful for some people, but there are people that I see every day and know what they would want; either heavy or lighter bags, stamps or other services. People enjoy it when I know what’s expected and the transaction can become more meaningful and friendly.         

Machines are more logical in services, Ryan Buell says “Technology lacks flexibility. When we’re interacting with a person and we’re having trouble understanding something, the person can adjust to us. If we’re having a misunderstanding, they can help clarify it. Technology really can’t do either of these things.”(Buell) This is another understanding when humans do the job, For example, I can fix prices and complete other services that the self-checkout machines can’t. For example: cashing checks and selling stamps, remembering codes and how the till works. A lot of things that may not be done at self-checkout.

The people that work at these jobs often work for minimum wage and not very good benefits. Many are current college students or college graduates that work there for many reasons. There’s a wide diversity and age group that work in these jobs “in 2010, 11% of retail workers had less than high school education, 38% had a high school education, 31% have some college, 15% have a Bachelor’s degree, and 8% have an advanced      degree.”( Misra & Walkers).  When people think of these jobs, they see that the job is minimum wage and low maintain, not thinking of the job and people that work in the job as important, so when people hear that I’m an Architecture major, they are surprised. I also work with business majors, psychology majors and Beauty students.  There is a large group of current college students


The pop culture references show that service jobs aren’t as valued or important to the customers shopping. Many of the customers expect that the service jobs be done faster, more efficiently and error-free so associating humans to be like machines. The way that human service helps is more efficient when connecting with customers and being able to fix mistakes when seen with also accommodating to the customer’s needs.




Danisnotonfire. Digital image. Giphy. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Gavett, Gretchen. “How Self-Service Kiosks Are Changing Customer Behavior.” Harvard Buisness Review. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

Misra, J., & Walters, K. (2016). All Fun and Cool Clothes? Youth Workers’ Consumer Identity in Clothing Retail. Work & Occupations, 43(3), 294-325. doi:10.1177/0730888416644949

Wall-E. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

 What Would You Do? Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.



One thought on “Retail workers are seen as being more machine-like.

  1. Hi Viktoriya, I have worked most of my adult life in retail as a side job. Customers are often hard to work with because of the expectations that they have. They often act in a way in which we as the workers are machine like. Its a lesson that many of us can learn, to treat those helping and working in a polite way because they are not machines. I like how you pointed out that the interaction is important!

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