So now we’re hearing that the Post Office is going to have to lay off 120,000 workers. Either that, or raise the price of a stamp to $179. Clearly, there’s a problem with the business model.
Have you visited a Post Office lately? The employees actually seem friendlier, but it all feels so 20th century–the lines, the stamps, the little scales, the trucks zipping here and there, the mailmen and mailwomen, in their postal shorts, circulating through our neighborhoods to drop off…what? Half of what we receive in our mailboxes is junk mail headed for landfills or fireplaces, and most of the other half could have been handled through email or the internet.
So why do we still use the Post Office? Because it’s what we’ve always used and it hasn’t died yet. Check back in 20 years and see how many Post Offices and postal employees are still out there.
The same goes for banks. Mine feels like a mausoleum: huge and impressive, but quiet and half-empty. I’m repeatedly asked by the tellers if I know how to bank online. Because I’m an old fart, I tell them no and I’m not interested, but I know damn well that those younger than me will be most happy to do their banking online and avoid the inconvenient trip to the bank. So it’s strange–bank tellers seemingly are urging us to eliminate their jobs. But it’s inevitable.
Your neighborhood stockbroker? What chance does he have selling you stocks for $200 a transaction when you could make the same transaction online for $7?
Your travel agent? Why give her a commission of $200 for setting up your trip when you could pocket the money, yourself?
Your book store? This one hurts me. Why spend $25 for a bestseller when you could order it online for your e-reader for $10?
The list goes on and on.
And sure, there will be exceptions because we do still value “service” and many of us like face-to-face contact, but the trend has been set. The results are inevitable.
This is what computers have wrought.
Back when I was a kid, we used to speculate on the future when robots would take over the world. It was a joke, of course, the stuff of science fiction.
Not so much anymore.