This is shocking
One thing I like about living in a small community is the friendliness of people working in shops and service industries. You get to know them by name. They get to know your requirements, and your quirks, like when you might be a bit grumpy or short of time, and they generally go out of their way to help you. They learn how you like your coffee and get it to the point of perfection pretty much every time. At the post shop they advise you how much extra it costs to send a parcel with a trace without you having to ask for that. At the garden centre they tell you when the next load of artichoke plants is coming in because they remember you ordering them last year. At the diary they remind you that the local paper has just been delivered if you’d like to take a free copy with your milk. Supermarket staff makes jokes, some so hilarious you chuckle around the aisles and your shopping is done before you know it. At the recycling centre they let you through with a nod because they know you and trust you. At the fish shop they order in just the right size fish for you, give or take 10 or so grams, and you joke about it being over the ordered weight. These sorts of daily encounters with humans make up a community existence, a place where people get to know each other, help each other, trust each other and pull together for the better of all.
I was alarmed, actually SHOCKED, by the content of an email that popped into my Inbox this week. It was to see if I was interested to talk to an American bigwig about Unattended Retail, Robotic Food Delivery and the future of human-less transactions.
What? WHAT??? Or, impolitely, and unapologetically, WTF?
I went on to read the following:
“The world of retail is being turned upside down with consumers and investors alike preferring ‘human-less’ transactions, interactive retail services and multiple payment options. It’s no secret that traditional retail brands are doubling down on their investment into autonomous robotics in the name of competitiveness and bottom-line profitability.
“Millennials in particular prefer to avoid any human interaction at all during the shopping or the delivery process. This tech-savvy generation places a premium on time, convenience, and customization, favoring machine automation over human interaction. Steve Easterbrook, the CEO of McDonald’s, had this to say about the future of self-service kiosks: “What we’re finding is when people dwell [around our self-service kiosks] more, they select more …We do know it helps grow the business, we know it’s the right route to go down. We can’t get there quick enough in the U.S.”
“From consumer electronics to bank branch transactions to ear buds to frozen yogurt, consumers of all ages are demanding both self-service and multiple payment options. Investors with early insights into these new norms of daily commercial behavior are poised to prosper.”
Talk about gobsmacked! Yes, a thousand negative thoughts … people isolated in their homes getting fatter and unfitter, while the profiteers’ bank balances also get ‘fatter’. Imagine, if you will, consumers buying from fast food self-service kiosks … being upsold more than they can possibly eat, or should eat, food with double or treble the amount of daily energy requirements in that one meal, and making that bad choice because they are preyed on by slick marketing offers, tempting photographs and the concept that bigger is better, and no one can see them anyway, so what the hell, guts up unseen with no accusative stare …
Communities losing their heart. Small businesses closing down. The opportunity to engage in dialogue with an expert, someone who really understands a product and can advise you about your particular needs. Gone.
Cookie-cutter lives. All the same. Push a button and out it will come. No individual preferences, no idiosyncrasies, no tailor-made. No smile, no ‘have a nice day’. Just a button to press.
Maybe I’m getting old … can’t stop progress and all that. But if we stop choosing our own food, we’ll forget, or not learn, how to choose food. If we stop cooking our own food, apart from the obvious of not knowing what is really in it, we’ll forget how to cook or not learn how to. And if we keep on eating the calorific crap that is being served in fast food places we will bloat up like swollen hippos and explode. God help us.
Why I get furious about stuff like this is that people will pick up on a phrase like this one here, ‘Millennials in particular prefer to avoid any human interaction at all during the shopping or the delivery process. This tech-savvy generation places a premium on time, convenience, and customization, favoring machine automation over human interaction.’
This phrase will quite likely be quoted, rephrased and reprinted mega times. It starts to build a myth, that this is what young people really want, to the point where they believe it themselves. It happened with the phrase, ‘Nobody wants to spend long in the kitchen anymore.’ Oh, how I railed against that.
Put about by advertising and PR companies so companies could push their new convenience products, it tricked the consumer into feeling guilty about spending too long in the kitchen actually cooking good food from scratch. You see how it worked? You were made to feel ridiculous if you spent Saturday cooking for friends when you could buy half the stuff ready-made. Why would you do it? Magazines, radio, television was full of convenience ideas, recipes and products. Even some foodwriters, misguided in my opinion, and sometimes paid to endorse the convenience products, though not always, endorsed the concept. Magazine editors loved the concept of, ‘in and out of the kitchen in no time at all so you can spend more time with your guests’. In my life I have found guests want to be in the kitchen, around the food, seeing it, smelling it, being involved with it …
In my heart what I want is for people to keep on cooking from scratch, to have that lovely interaction with their family and friends as they put a meal together. To know about the food they are cooking, to be informed so they can make appropriate choices about what they cook and feed their family. And to enjoy eating delicious homemade food around the table as families and friends have done forever. That’s what Shared Kitchen stands for. YES! Feel proud of yourself if you cook from scratch, and continue to spread joy, and good health and good times, with those you know.
I have digressed, but that’s the beauty of having a soapbox – you get to stand on it from time to time!