Guess why ATMs were invented in the first place? No, they were not developed so consumers could get to their money more easily, although that was a side benefit. ATMs were heralded as a brilliant cost-saving feature of late 20th century banking. ATMs’ magic was to do the jobs of tens of thousands of tellers, who were laid-off when ATMs took over and saving banks hundreds of millions of dollars in labor costs.
That is why Bank of America’s attempts to charge customers for using ATMs is so infuriating. First, customers were pushed to use ATMs as much as possible to replace trips to the bank teller. Then, after ATMs saved billions of dollars for the banks, banks turn around and want to impose a charge on consumers for relying on the ATMs that the banks, not too long ago, begged their customers to use.
The same productivity vs. job Catch-22 happens everyday as service industries bring automatic technologies into their fields. Those self-check outs at Home Depot and other stores eliminate cashiers. Movie theaters encourage customers to purchase tickets on-line or at DIY kiosks in their lobbies. Those truly obnoxious pay machines at garages allows them to handle the same number of cars with fewer workers. (BTW, do they care about long-lines and broken machines that often greet customers?)
It goes on and on. That’s one of the structural pillars of job loss in American and discrepancies between job openings and workers’ skills to fill them.