Shadow Work: How Corporations Make Us Do the Jobs of Thousands for Free

Do you realize that every day you do the job of dozens of people and don’t get paid to do them?  In fact, you pay the corporations and businesses for the privilege to serve yourself.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time….

We now pump our own gas, check ourselves out at the grocery store, help ourselves as we can’t find a clerk at Macy’s, check ourselves in at the airport, pay our parking at a machine….the list goes on and on.

These used to be jobs.  People used to do these jobs.  These jobs used to enable people to buy homes and have families.  They used to make us interact with people and make our lives more human and humane and less frantic and stressed.

Now we “self-service” so the corporations can make more profit and cut tedious expenses like “employees.”

When I visit my Mother at her Assisted Living facility, I see people who made careers as sales clerks and in other customer service jobs. They made enough money to live decent, middle class lives and pay for the outrageous fees at that home.

Shoppers and travelers used to feel pampered and appreciated.  Now they are stressed and over burdened.

And don’t even think about the internet and the push to self service there for banking, shopping and every other imaginable task.

Banks now want to charge Customers to see a teller- and to use their Debit Cards to self service and help banks avoid the processing charges associated with checks.

Businesses will do anything to avoid interacting directly with their Customers.

Customers are also another inconvenience to businesses.  Business doesn’t understand why people don’t just give them money and walk away.  So what, if the service and products are shoddy or not what the people want.

They just want their cash- sorry, credit or debit cards.  Cash is too people-intensive to handle.

But the Corporations are making record profits….and stashing them in under their figurative mattresses.

Think about this a while and you will really start to understand that Occupy Wall Street was a long time coming…

Here is a brief excerpt from today’s New York Times. I encourage you to click the link and read the entire article…..


The conventional wisdom is that America has become a “service economy,” but actually, in many sectors, “service” is disappearing. There was a time when a gas station attendant would routinely fill your tank and even check your oil and clean your windshield and rear window without charge, then settle your bill. Today, all those jobs have been transferred to the customer: we pump our own gas, squeegee our own windshield, and pay our own bill by swiping a credit card. Where customers once received service from the service station, they now provide “self-service” — a synonym for “no service.” Technology enables this sleight of hand, which lets gas stations cut their payrolls, having co-opted their patrons into doing these jobs without pay.

Examples abound, helping drive unemployment rates. Airports now have self-service check-in kiosks that allow travelers to perform the jobs of ticket agents. Travel agents once unearthed, perused and compared fares, deals and hotel rates. Shadow-working travelers now do all of this themselves on their computer screens. Medical patients are now better informed than ever — as a result of hours of online shadow work. In 1998, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that taxpayers spent six billion hours per year on “tax compliance activities.” That’s serious shadow work, the equivalent of three million full-time jobs.

Once upon a time, retail stores had employees who were not cashiers but roamed the floor, assisting customers. Go into a Wal-Mart or Target or Staples and find someone to help you locate and choose a product. Good luck. You’re on your own, left to wander the aisles in search of an unoccupied staff person. (Meanwhile, you might stumble on and purchase some item you hadn’t planned on buying.) Here, it’s not technology, but a business tactic that cuts payroll expenses by trimming the service provided to customers — and prolongs the time those customers spend rambling around inside the store. Regardless, the result is still more shadow work, as customers take on the job that retail salespeople once did.

via Our Unpaid, Extra Shadow Work –

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Filed under Occupy Wall Street, Politics, The Economy

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