Listen here, sonny Jim. When I was a boy, we had to walk 10 miles to school everyday, through the snow, uphill both ways. You could feed a family of 5 with a dime and still have change left over. We didn’t have no new-fangled refrigera-trons with Bluetooth access; if you wanted milk, you got it from a ruggedly handsome milkman who, come to think of it, looked a lot like you do ...
Fortunately for jealous husbands, milkmen have long since been supplanted by refrigerators and supermarkets. Like rag-pickers, scriveners, and switchboard operators, their disappearance is part of a recurring theme: technological innovation and a shifting social landscape are propelling new occupations to the forefront, while simultaneously pushing others into obscurity.
And it is still happening, even today. Presented below are 4 jobs that are very much in danger of disappearing before the decade is up.
1. Walmart Greeter:
“Welcome to Walmart!”
Ah, yes, the Walmart greeter: ever cheerful, ever vigilant that we have our receipts. In 1980, Walmart installed these friendly folk in front of every store to act as the public face of the corporation. While many businesses may have adopted the practice, arguably none have done so as successfully as Walmart, where the emblazoned blue vests have become something of a cultural icon.
Early last year, however, Walmart decided to discontinue the tradition, retiring or reassigning greeters to other roles in an effort to streamline operating costs.
2. Photo Processing Technician:
For Millennials, one sure sign of the times is being able to remember what life was like before the advent of digital cameras: 35mm film, negatives, and a trip down to the local one hour photo shop, where you gave a trained technician access to some of your most private moments. God help you if there were any nudie pics in the mix.
With the transition from analog to digital, however, demand for such services has been on a sharp decline. Memory cards and USB ports allow us to download pictures onto our computers; many of us eschew cameras entirely, preferring to snap and share photos directly on our smartphones.
Fortunately, demand for professional photographers is unlikely to flag, whatever Instagram may have to say on the subject, and many photo printing businesses are making the transition to digital media. Just be prepared to feel the weight of your years when the next generation starts asking what those little black canisters with the gray caps were for.
3. Post Office Worker:
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." So reads the creed of the indefatigable postman, who spares no expense to ensure that next-day delivery means next-day.
Unfortunately, rising expenses mean career prospects at the Postal Service are becoming increasingly slim. The USPS recently announced that it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays beginning in August. Job outlooks for postal clerks are downright abysmal, with a 48% decline over just a two-year span. The numbers for mail carriers aren’t as bad (engineers still haven’t developed a robot that can drive and deliver mail ... yet), but with stiff competition from FedEx and UPS, the man in blue shorts may soon be fading into historical obscurity.
4. Supermarket Cashier:
First they came for the grocery packers, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a grocery packer. Then they came for the greeters, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a greeter. Now they’ve come to finish the job.
Self-checkout has largely become the norm for many shoppers, and not just at the supermarket: large businesses like IKEA and Home Depot now process a sizeable percentage of their transactions through this method, and cashiers are feeling the squeeze. It doesn’t help that self-checkout is just as valuable to businesses as customers; with customers scanning, bagging, and paying all on their own, all management needs to do is ensure nobody tries to switch the pricetag on a flatscreen with one from a DVD.
New technologies seek to skip the checkout line altogether. Scan-It allows customers to ring up purchases straight from the cart, tabulating total costs on the fly. It even notifies the shopper of relevant coupons and deals based on what has been scanned. While the system has yet to see action outside of select states in the Northwest, reception has so far been enthusiastic from both customers and businesses. It’s a win-win deal, except for the cashiers who are losing out on jobs.