THERE'S NO STOPPING HOME SHOPPING
In the 25 years since the internet was invented – by a British computer genius – it's amazing how much we've come to rely on the World-Wide-Web for almost everything. But it's not only the internet. Computers have become indispensable in general. This newspaper couldn't be produced without them, yet when I first came to work for The Citizen there wasn't a single computer in the building. The way we buy things has changed forever and I'm not just talking about getting bargains on the likes of eBay. Using a home computer to do the weekly supermarket shop and having it delivered to your door has its attractions but you can't see or touch what you're buying to assess its suitability. However, it's not only in home delivery that computers have changed shopping habits. I've noticed that larger branches of supermarkets have been undergoing a quiet change. For example, at Asda in Gloucester, there have been 'fast lane' checkouts where you scan the items yourself for a long time, but the number of conveyor belt self-service checkouts has recently gone up from four to ten. So what? I hear you ask.Well, using these checkouts means there is no chat, banter or interaction of any sort with a human being. That's fine while we have both manned and unmanned points; you can choose either service or DIY. But what happens when companies realise how much money they save by getting customers to do for nothing, what they used to pay staff to do? Shopping will become even more impersonal. Currently, Tesco will supply you with a hand-held scanner that totals-up the cost of your goods to make getting in and out of the store faster still.Even cinema tickets can be ordered online and then printed by yourself on a machine in the foyer when you get there.It's the same at any high street bank. As well as online banking and phone banking, the financial institutions are pushing us ever-closer to performing our own transactions. Stand in a queue at your bank and it won't be long before a 'greeter' approaches you and extolls the virtue of using cheque deposit points to pay-in, or ATMs to withdraw cash. They dress it up as saving you time, but if those who wander up and down the queue offering automation were to park their bums on seats behind the counter, the queue wouldn't be so long in the first place.For me, there are three main downsides to all these checkout 'selfies'. Firstly, I miss out on having a chat or often, a joke with the checkout operator. Second, it's not a quicker system if the person in front of you doesn't know how to use it. But worst of all, the more we are willing to do it ourselves, the more other people will eventually be out of work.
In just one week, we've lost the Royal Mail sorting office on Eastern Avenue and now the Great Western Ambulance Service control centre at Quedgeley has closed - its 20 staff being moved to the edge of Bristol. Would the last person to leave the city please switch-off the lights?
HOPE BUT NO GLORY
I spotted an optimistic sign while riding on the top deck of a 94 bus. It's in the window of the Gloucester Liberal Democrat's HQ in the city centre and informs us the party is "winning here". Given the Lib Dem's much-publicised recent failure to win more votes than an elderly Elvis impersonator, I wouldn't bet on the Lib Dems winning an election in their own office!
THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
In addition to two beautiful granddaughters, Brenda and I have a lively grandson who is one year old today. Unlike his granddad, he's always smiling and never moans about anything. Happy Birthday, Oakley Kirby.