Service of Ensuring Work

August 13th, 2010

Categories: Banking, Economy, Jobs, Responsiveness, Service, Staffing, Work


A friend and reader of this blog, DB, wrote me last week and inspired a post about jobs and helping others keep theirs. The subject is spot-on in this economy when it is jobs–or lack of same–that many, including me, think is causing this economy to flounder.

She wrote: “In fast food places, I like to leave my tray on the table and full of my used food plates and wrappers rather than carry the garbage to the trash bin and the tray to the stack in a holder. I’ve noticed that people with disabilities frequently work as table clearers. I feel that my deliberate neglect allows such citizens not only to provide a service-but also to keep a job.”

fastfoodDB continued: “Am I being rude or am I more thoughtful to add to the load of the person who was hired to do this menial task? This question plagues me every time I knowingly do not clean up after myself.”

For the same reason, another friend, PE, refused to use the New York City subway/bus MetroCard when it was introduced for fear of putting token booth attendants out of business. Her prediction was accurate: Today there are few token booth people to sell MetroCards [or to guide and guard customers on subway platforms]. The option of buying tokens is gone.

atmmachinePE also refused to use ATM machines. She wanted to help ensure bank clerk’s jobs.

I believe in progress and using technology to run an efficient business. Using paper cards instead of metal tokens and computer-driven machines [when they work] instead of people fits. Paper and machines cost less.

I never thought I was endangering a person’s job by cleaning up after myself in a place that expects me to do so, but DB makes a good point. Using this train of thought we have all added to the problem because computers have removed the need for millions of office and factory workers. I don’t know what I’d do without my computer. Sure she gets sick like a person and misses days of work until the computer doctor can pay a visit, but when she works, she’s a godsend.

What do you think is the most effective way to help ensure others’ jobs? Or instead of trying to save jobs, should we be focusing on creating real, long lasting ones? Like what?  The pundits don’t seem to know.


6 Responses to “Service of Ensuring Work”

  1. David Reich Said:

    I’m not so sure I agree with this train of thought. One could take it to the extreme and suggest we throw trash out our car windows, since litter provides jobs for sanit people.

    Like your reader, I prefer to deal with a teller at the bank or buy tokens (oops, I mean Metro cards) from a clerk rather than from a machine. But using these machines or not won’t halt progress, and the sad fact is this equipment can do the job at a lower cost. The people who are displaced at the banks, in the subways or at McDonald’s will be eventually absorbed into other jobs, although it will probably take longer in this economy. But other jobs come up.

    Twenty years ago, how many people were employed as techies taking bugs out of our computers? Or how many worked at running wiring through office walls and ceilings to interconnect all the digital devices?

    Times change; job opportunities change, for the skilled and unskilled among us.

    I’d keep picking up my garbage after I eat at self-serve restaurants. It’s the polite and civilized thing to do.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    If society were to wrap itself in guilt every time progress in one sector or another was made, it would have talked itself back to the Stone Age. In the last two hundred years alone, think of all the blacksmiths, coach manufacturers, coachmen and horses (as in Pony Express, maybe?) made jobless because of train, car and plane inventions. A successful boycott of such amenities would make travel a great deal more difficult and time consuming than it is now. We can work this back from century to century, and there will always be someone whose talents become obsolete. Worrying about a fast food person being put out on the street because the customer is not acting boorish and cleaning up after himself is a totally useless expenditure of guilt. There will always be inconsiderate slobs to clean up after, and if not, our theoretic worker must change gears and learn a new trade in order to survive, as did his or her ancestors who found themselves similarly disengaged.

    It was too bad for the subway workers, but the MTA could ill afford to pay them, and because of unions, the benefits at taxpayer cost have gotten out of hand. True, this is a poorly run agency, but that’s another discussion.

    Rather than torture oneself when it comes to doing the right thing vis-a-vis of someones continued employment, how about considering the new technologies which will provide job openings? How about also leaning on elected officials to prevent outsourcing which has cost jobs in the millions and where many otherwise hard working people are losing their homes. Their livelihoods have been wrenched from under them, not because of a new gizmo, but because of greedy employers intent on putting the ensuing profits into their pockets, then turning about and holding the President and everyone on down for joblessness and a sour economy.

    I must confess to being part of the problem. It is healthier to walk, so I avoid public transportation as much as possible, and find fast food awful, so avoid such establishments altogether. Oh well!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I don’t think that DB and PE suffered from guilt. I think that they are frustrated and they feel helpless and want to help the job situation when they are not in a position to themselves hire people or open a big business.

    Instead of giving away more money to help people in states with a shrinking job market save their homes from foreclose, I’d wished that President Obama had signed a bill to attract business to those states so that these people could pay for their mortgages from their wages.

    I, too, plan to clean my tray. Maybe if you have money to spare, you can tip the people who keep fast food places clean. It doesn’t save a job, but makes the day a bit cheerier for all.

  4. Hester Craddock Said:


    I’m afraid I disagree with both DB and PE, but I do agree with you in your comment.

    It is patently stupid for humans to “make work” for others to do. Or to do jobs which could be better done by machines. People should do jobs that are best done by people. Someday, machines will probably drive automobiles and fly planes, but no machine will ever succeed in replacing a really good waiter or garage mechanic.

    As to the job creation question you raise, the problem we face is that, thanks to technology and globalization, to compete in the world, we must lower our labor costs to those prevalent in India, Mexico and China. Therefore, to create jobs here, we have to pay people far less than we do now for far better performance. Our factory workers, our bank executives, our doctors, our lawyers and our politicians will have to accept being paid the same level of wages that their counterparts in those countries receive and a commensurate infinitely poorer standard of living. Only the rich stand a chance of escaping living worse. For obvious reasons, no sane politician dare say this; although I suspect most of them know it.

    As you point out, borrowing more money to pass out to semi-bankrupt property owners so they’ll be able to service their mortgages doesn’t solve any problem in the long run. Nor do handouts to state governments so they can pay their employees, like teachers whose wages are going up and not down, solve any problems. Indeed, they will just make things worse for us when the eventual collapse does come!


  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m sure that during the Depression, people felt the way you do and thank God we got out of it. So I don’t agree with the implication in your conclusion that we are watching a train crash with nothing to do other than stare, throw up our hands and say, “I told you so.”

    However, regarding another point you made, technology will affect even those who repair cars, according to my doctor who shared the following tidbit as he drew blood last week: Robots have begun to perform operations with surgeons working from out of town looking at a screen and operating equipment from where they are. He predicted that in 30 years, cars will also be repaired this way, cutting out jobs we now think are safe.

    Pass the buggy whips and typewriter ribbons. Interesting about the old fashioned things we do keep such as firewood and knitting needles. Another post, perhaps?

    Wait staff at restaurants is another story. I think.

  6. DB Said:

    Hi Jeanne,

    It is interesting that everyone missed the point about the person with a disability (mental retardation) having a job. These people also help me get my groceries to my car. I always accept the help and give a tip.

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