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Letters to the Editor: Call automation what it is — making the customer do more work

Passengers watch airport operations on the tarmac from inside Terminal 1 at LAX
Passengers watch airport operations from inside Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport, where increasing automation with check-in and baggage handling means less interaction with airline staff.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Automation may be touted as the way to a better future, but really it’s just another way for businesses to save money by making customers shoulder some of the work. Even though automation is thought to make certain tasks easier, it’s an absurd and exasperating trend in so many ways. (“Airports to passengers: Do it yourself,” Opinion, Sept. 27)

Older people with bones as brittle as twigs are expected to become luggage handlers. People who barely know how to use a computer must become their own online travel agents or pay more to interact with a person.

Automated check-out options at grocery stores sometimes outnumber staffed check-out lines, though customer service is part of what customers pay for. With no training or work benefits, for that matter, the customer is expected to suddenly know how to scan fruit with no bar codes.

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If you want to reach your doctor’s office or seek assistance from a business, first you must respond to a robot’s questions. Often none of the answer options matches what you need and hitting “0" doesn’t connect you to a person. Then you’re asked to review the experience like a manager.

Getting rid of customer service with genuine human beings is an insult to the customer, and without that human exchange and the employee’s helpful and sometimes quirky remarks, the experience is hollow and often useless. It’s no surprise that customers are getting angrier.

Pam Polivka, Valencia

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To the editor: Nicholas Goldberg’s column points up the amazing technologies that are designed to make airports more efficient. However, some very important subjects are overlooked.

As our population is living longer, a greater portion of travelers is not able to use these amazing machines.

Who helps with lifting heavy bags and checking in when curbside service is no more? What happens when no one is around to help with handicapped needs? Do you need a wheelchair? Good luck.

But at least with fewer workers and lower costs to the airports, I’m sure the savings will be passed onto the public. Coffee might even go from $14 to $12 a cup.

Robert Greene, Woodland Hills


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