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We're all guilty of it. Rather than dealing with long lines at the airline ticket counter, many of us choose to use the self-service kiosks to print boarding passes or - better yet - print them out on a home computer before arriving at the airport. A few quick keystrokes produces the passes that might have taken mere minutes for an overworked agent to produce. You can even change your seat assignment and print tags to check your baggage through the machine to avoid another chance at social interaction, save for the curt nod you might receive from the baggage handler at the other end of the machine you put your luggage in.
A stop at the grocery store may lead you to the self-service checkout lanes, where you're in control of scanning and bagging your own groceries.
When you get back to the office or check in from home, you listen to your voicemail and answer most of the calls by shooting off a quick e-mail message.
It may seem to be more efficient or more convenient to be able to avoid a frazzled airline agent or cashier with an attitude problem, but at what cost? In a time when unemployment is on the rise, is it really a good idea to bypass human interaction and conduct your business with a machine? And is it always good to conduct business over the keyboard rather than over the phone?
The convenience of scanning and bagging groceries yourself may seem more time-efficient, but it's ultimately costing someone a job. Rather than employing a cashier, the store has outsourced the work - to you, the customer. These self-service areas are appealing to companies for an obvious reason: it saves money, sometimes thousands of dollars a year. The customer is doing what was previously an employee's job, without expecting a paycheck in return.
In a world where it's easy to get through an entire day without face-to-face social interaction, we must realize that this convenience is causing jobs to disappear, unemployment to rise and families to struggle. In addition, it's making us a more impersonal society. Human interaction is important to develop and grow relationships, both personal and business-related. The next time you need to respond to a voice message, forgo e-mail and take the time to respond over the phone. When attending trade shows and conferences, walk a little slower and talk to the exhibitors and other attendees - don't just pass them by. It's a great opportunity to meet a new contact in person or interact with someone you might not otherwise meet. For adhesive manufacturers, a stop at a testing company's booth might solve a tough problem or give you insights into options you might not have considered. You never know what you might learn from taking the time to talk to someone.
Teresa McPherson is Editor of Adhesives & Sealants Industry magazine. If you wish to send a letter to the editor, please address it to the editor, ASI Magazine, PO Box 936, Lapeer, MI 48446, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . Letters must include the sender's address, phone number and e-mail address, when possible. Letters may be edited for space and clarity.