What Happens When It’s Easier To Pay No Wages Rather Than A Minimum

As of today there is no hotter subject following on the heels of Obama-Care than the current fight brewing in the minimum wage debate.

Regardless of which side of the aisle (or counter) you’re on, the argument as to demand a government regulated hike of upwards of 50% or more in some places puts a question squarely on the businesses owners that must and will be answered: channeling the Clash, Should I stay – Or Should I go?

There are some arguments within this debate that have some valid points. i.e., We do the same for child labor. You can’t hire a 10-year-old at .10 cents an hour to clean out the grease traps at your restaurant, or sweep the floors and so forth where a competitor might try to use an 8-year-old at a nickel. It allowed for all businesses to be on a level playing field at the lowest of rungs. i.e., The entry-level.

Today the entry-level position has morphed into something far different when you talk to anyone who’s never owned or run a business. It’s no longer thought of as “entry-level.” It’s now looked upon in the ways one would look to some form of “career choice.”

But what happens when businesses decide their choice is to either leave – or eliminate the need for those positions all together?

The problem for many arguing on this issue is this: At the price point of wages now being demanded immediately (upwards in some cases of over 50%) it provides not only the financially imperative to mitigate, but maybe the incentive to eliminate the positions all together.

But (and it’s a very big but) what changes everything and enters into this debate in a way that has never been possible until today is this: Both the technology, along with the acceptance of it, might be farther along the development curve than many believe to foster such dramatic changes. Along with the availability for near immediate implementation pushing aside earlier distrust or fears of acceptance adding incentive to “employ” now rather than later.

To help clarify I offer this observation I witnessed the other day…

For my anniversary I took a day off from watching the Wall Street casino and ventured to a local casino where the odds and rules for gambling were fair, honest, and known.

I pondered with great amusement I actually had better odds of beating the dealer and possibly the slots than I did placing an order only to then be front run by the HFT de jure. But I digress.

What caught my eye was something that had been added only in the last 6 months. There were several black jack tables with people seated and playing. However, the dealer was a life-sized television image on a flat HD screen. The whole game was an electronic projection. Yet, so real and blending into the background was the set up – you might not catch it at first glance. Actually my wife never noticed till I pointed it out.

We’ve all seen the movies with the futuristic robots or interactive displays that seem so B-movie in nature. This was not of that caliber. Yes there were some quirky things as far as stutters in a few places but overall it was impressive. And it’s going to get a whole lot better, and faster, if this whole minimum wage debate festers further leaving businesses what they’ll deem as “no other choice.”

As of today casinos across the U.S. are struggling and one of the glaring issues one can see is when you enter a casino that’s far from filled are the dealers and others that are standing at their tables with no one playing looking almost sullen as you walk by.

The cost in labor on days like that must be astronomical. And what are they doing about it? Well to start, it seems to me the one thing they have started doing which has immediate impact is to eliminate it. For if they don’t do something fast – they’ll be eliminated themselves all together. (Again just look last week at Atlantic City NJ.)

Casinos have made their bread and butter based all about the personal and the interactive. But necessity is the mother of invention. And there is no stricter parental tool for getting one inline than the realization that Chapter 7 has no need of an epilogue for closing the book on a business.

In reaction to all this there is an entry into the new and once thought “taboo” when it comes to a customer interactive business. i.e., Can the shift be made into the Virtual Interactive vs Human Interactive in the most personally interactive of service industries?

If casinos, the once bastion of anything and everything “customer personalization and/or interactive excellence” has decided it’s in their best financial interest to go “non-human.” What are the consequences for other industries facing similar issues?

How much will this technology be pushed, enhanced, refined, and accepted if it’s deemed a necessity and employed en masse today – forget tomorrow?

Do you or I need to be greeted and waited on in a “fast food” styled establishment by an actual person? Especially when that person many times treats the taking of my order as an inconvenience? Or, is looking down and texting between my pauses when I’m ordering?

What about the many signs we now see where employers have to put up everywhere (I see them in bold red at my own local McD’s) “NO PHONES WHILE WORKING!” (Apparently no one follows the rules so they must be reminded with a posting – everywhere!)

The machines alone in most fast food places today are one step or protocol away from needing any human interaction entirely. Many of these systems are made with reminders and warnings that an employee shouldn’t touch them other than picking up the completed item and handing to the customer.

Just look at any take out windows soda fulfillment machine. Most now are completely automated and many require in-house seated patrons to get their own via some integrated Hal 5000-esque dispensing machine.

Not that long ago this was all thought of as “taboo” as in customers will never accept it. Now, getting your own soda is the norm.

Do we need cashiers if plastic is the “tender” of choice? Do you need to be greeted by a person who acts as if they have something better to do? Or, would you rather have a smiling LCD screen?

How about the larger question: Will you pay twice as much for your current fast food order as a show of solidarity day in, day out, week after week, month after month when over on the next block the same restaurant or franchise is serving the exact same food with no noticeable difference other than a person taking your order, or handing you your order? Again – at maybe half the price?

If casinos facing ever higher and higher labor costs have decided to take the plunge and feel the odds are worth it. How long will it be before others feel they have no other choice than to play those same odds for themselves?

What may add insult to injury is if the very regulatory bodies setting up to enforce these hikes decide in order to meet the needs of an ever-growing unemployment problem implement similar ideas to better serve a possible wave of newly unemployed fast food workers. i.e., They decide to automate further.

Press #1 for recently fired, Press #2 for newly dismissed. Or hold to speak with the next available Gen-3500 interactive virtual assistant.

Don’t think for a second it isn’t possible. The inherent problem lies within – it’s far more probable.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr