Price of Convenience is Higher than We Think!


Frank Komola retired in 2012 following a 23 year career at UPS. He belongs to the retirees chapter of Local 25, International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Boston. He and his wife, Lisa, live in Haverhill.

It’s Monday morning, and after a great weekend, the first day of the work week is, as usual, a challenge in any number of ways. But in the self-service world we live in, there are any number of ways to expedite the day ahead of us.

Even though our debit and credit cards can get the things we need, cash can sometimes be the only option. So we head to the nearest ATM for pocket money. We’ve run around the area over the weekend, so a trip to the gas station is in order. We pull up to self-serve, slide in our payment card, fill the tank ourselves and head out. We swing into a Panera Bakery and even though there’s no drive-up option, we love their bagels enough to walk inside to order our coffee and bagel. We walk up to a self-service kiosk, select our order and pay using our debit card. Next, the person behind the counter hands us a paper cup, the heated bagel in a bag, a small container of cream cheese, a knife and some napkins. We fill our own cup, add cream and sugar to the coffee, spread our own cream cheese on the bagel and head out the door. We drive under the overhead scanners on the toll road that automatically deducts the toll from our bank account.

We get to the office and realize our credit card bill is due. We go online, look up our account and pay the bill—one less trip to the mailbox or post office. After work, we decide to see a movie. We go online, order the tickets and pay for them; arrive at the theater; go to a kiosk; and pick up our tickets. We’re thirsty, so we approach a vending machine, select a beverage, pay with a card, are handed a cup, fill the cup ourselves and head for the theater. On our way home, we stop at the grocery store, pick out our groceries, head to the counter, scan the order, pay for it at a self-service register, bag it ourselves and head out the door.

Pretty convenient? Yes! But at who’s expense? Ours! We are a labor force that is given to the various retailers we encounter every day. And we give it to them for free! Did we save anything or get a discount in return for our labors? No! Did any of the machines we used in the course of that day pay any taxes to support our schools, our public safety services or our highway infrastructure?  No! Did they contribute to social security, disability insurance premiums or pay any unemployment taxes to our state? No! Did the machine get paid any overtime for working 24 hours, seven-days-a-week? No! And last and certainly not least, did any of those machines receive a paycheck that in turn was spent to buy a car or a home, the clothes, food or any of the other commodities that drive the country’s economy every day ? No again!

Our self-reliance is eliminating a very large segment of the population that the country relies on to grow the economy. We are turning into a unpaid labor force and the companies we buy from are laughing at us and they’re laughing at us all the way to a big bottom line! The stockholders are thrilled, the rest of us, not so much! And we shouldn’t be! We’re killing the labor force that we are a part of, and the wounds are self-inflicted!