Harding's a true job provider
ACHTUNG: This is not a "fair and balanced story. It is editorial commentary by the editor.
They should change the name of Harding’s Friendly Market to Harding’s Old-Fashioned Market. It would be more accurate, not that they’re anything but still friendly. Even more accurate would be Harding's the Job Provider.
There are two critical and unique characteristics about the Harding’s in Wayland, and I never fail to notice them when I shop within its friendly confines:
1. Harding’s Market does not have any of those fancy-schmansy, newfangled technological self-service checkout lanes. All checkout lanes are staffed by honest-to-goodness human beings.
2. Harding’s Market does not make the customer haul his or her own groceries to the car, truck or SUV in the parking lot. It has a young person, or sometimes an older person, carry out your bagged groceries with you and place them in your vehicle. Service with a smile, and no tipping, please.
It’s like eating at a real restaurant with menus and a waiter/waitress rather than scarfing up your own food at a counter (you want fries with that?) and later busing your own table. It’s almost like those thrilling days of yesteryear when the gas station attendant came out of the station and washed your windshield, pumped your gas and checked your oil.
What it really is, is Harding’s continuing commitment to local jobs. I can’t say the same for its competitors.
Because Harding’s has a real person at the checkout counter, that’s a person with a job instead of a machine doing the work without pay or benefits. I suppose in the long run it has to cost Harding’s more money to have a human being (wages and benefits) providing the service than a machine.
Because Harding’s bags and carries out your groceries, it also is making an employment commitment to people, rather than simply letting customers do it themselves. Yes, we’re big boys and girls, but the throwback is charming and it makes me feel good that some people are employed rather than letting me do it.
I really can’t think of any other supermarket that still does carryout. And every time I commit the sin of shopping at Meijer, I notice the increasing numbers of self-serve computerized checkouts and the dwindling numbers of human beings doing the work. I’d rather deal with a real human being, just like when I call on the phone for servicing and get a computerized voice on the other end of the line or a foreign person (“Hello, I am Peggy”) I can barely understand.
I suppose Meijer officials would defend such a process with the explanation, “It’s a business decision.” It’s a business decision to lay off or hire fewer human beings, just like it’s a business decision to close down local plants and move overseas where the workers toil for a lot less money, no benefits and there aren’t many of those pesky regulations that might make working conditions better or safer.
I watched a disturbing documentary last night about how it’s not just foreigners, but machines, or technology, that are taking over the mundane tasks or work, leaving too many of us without jobs that will never come back.
As the superb documentarian Adam Curtis put it, “All while being watched over by machines of loving grace.”
Unemployment will continue to be high when the number of jobs continues to decline while “job providers” provide fewer of them because they’re too costly. Americans looking for jobs nowadays are being overtaken not only by cheap foreign workers, but also technology.
But it’s just business, as a drug dealer might say after killing a friend, so it’s OK.
I am as guilty as anyone else of shopping at Meijer, thinking I’m getting lower price and better selection. Sometimes I’m not getting lower price — compare the Meijer price for El Matador chips to Harding’s. Sometimes it’s the same — compare milk when on sale.
And every time I go to Meijer I disrespect Harding’s commitment to the community where I live and work by providing a lot of jobs.
Harding’s was the last local grocery left standing in Wayland after the march of time claimed the likes of the A & P, Gurney’s IGA and Smith’s Grocery, who folded their tents between 40 and 50 years ago. I can only hope it’s still around for many years to come, and that it still has full-service carryout and human clerks counting up our grocery bill.