AI vs Workers Reflection – Michael’s Craft Stores

At the Michael’s (craft store) by my house, they have replaced the cash registers with these gigantic kiosks.

I think it’s supposed to make the shopping process faster and more seamless for the customer and hopefully for the workers, too. I asked the lady who was running around from machine to machine trying to figure out all the problems if this has made her job any easier.

It kind of seemed like it hadn’t and, in the moment she was really busy. I asked her directly if it had, and she said she didn’t know yet. That makes sense since it had only been a day, but she was working at the front alone, with machines she didn’t really know how to use yet. 

Fear of Machines & AI

It’s interesting to think how in capitalism, workers may be afraid of machines. The productivity fallacy is very negative for the workers experience and this often leads to frustration and burnout. In a work environment like Michael’s, adding customer facing kiosks is fine, as long as the workers managing them are effectively trained and understand how their metrics in-store have updated accordingly. 

In large box stores, there is usually very detailed stats on how ‘effective’ workers are in terms of their intake and output. Specifically at Target, ‘picking time’ is a measurement of how quick online orders are packaged and fulfilled by the worker. If you don’t have a good picking time, this can effect your chance of being hired during busy seasonal times. 

On the side of restaurants, online ordering has greatly boosted profits for businesses, but increased stress for workers. Often times due to technology concerns, it can be difficult to create a fully seamless system where workers can integrate between all the different online platforms. This leads to more human error, more blame, and more stress on the kitchen staff and front of house. 

Perhaps, in a different type of system where machines and AI are beneficial to our lives we might have a different experience as workers. For the lady at Michael’s I feel like she’s mostly worried about losing her job to machines, as I would be too. 

In a better experience, perhaps the machines and workers could work together to It’s not like that person. It’s continuing to work at Michael’s. I have like a part-time wage with like an easier job. And like better hours because now they’re machines. It’s more that these machines have actually replaced the labor of A team member or multiple team members, and

In the essence of humans, machines and AI should work with us to build a better future and better conditions for workers. In the essence of capitalism, machines are used to cut corners and create large margins for profits since the labor costs much less.