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Nothing flash about this mob

A pal of mine has been explaining about ‘flash mobs’. He says they’re a new idea where a group of people appear at a given spot at a given time and perform a dance, song or even mime. When they’re finished, they melt away as though they had never been there. But they had been seen - by lots of cameras.

I considered this for a while and came to the conclusion that flash mobs have been around for years. Whenever the big boss arrived on site, the mob would appear out of nowhere. They’d show their skill at forelock-tugging and cap-doffing around him. Then, when he left and the work started again, they would melt away as though they had never been there. But they had been seen - by the boss.

Now we have one-man flash mobs. Instead of employing extra staff to operate tills, our local supermarket is employing a young person who appears with a flag to indicate where there is no queue. This seems to be yet another daft idea to come down from the boffins at head office. Why do they insist on papering over the cracks rather than repairing them?

A small flash mob of safety consultants create a visual representation of their paper 'Best Practice when Acknowledging a Train'.
Photo: Dan Nguyen @ New York City

When you retire from full-time employment, you think “that’s it”. From now on it’s trips out or pottering about in the gardening - all the time in the world to enjoy the rest of your days. But now I find that I am now working just as much as before while thousands of jobs are being cut.

I am encouraged to be a bank teller by banking online; I am encouraged to become a shop assistant by taking a trolley, collecting my purchases and checking them out myself. Not long ago, people were employed to do these things. Every month we spend hours queuing because poor staffing levels in shops, post offices and banks mean so many tills and counter positions are closed. Meantime we pay many millions of pounds in benefits to the unemployed.

Who benefits from these disappearing posts? Not me and not you, that’s for certain. It only serves to boost the profit level of the companies involved. Bus conductors sold tickets and kept a level of order, leaving the driver to focus on safely steering through the traffic. Now the bus blocks the road while the one-man operator sells tickets at the door to a queue of passengers. We had petrol pump attendants who filled our tanks and took our money. Now we sit waiting for those ahead of us to fathom out how the pump works.

It only serves to boost the profit level of the companies involved.

But there are new jobs being created. Consultant pop up everywhere and have their thumbs in everything. And of course if you don’t like what one says, there are plenty more to ask. If a simple question needs answering, a flash mob of expert naval-gazers emerges, offering to launch a feasibility study.

Society has been turned upside-down and inside-out. Things that need doing are overlooked while a skilled workforce sits at home counting dole money. Meantime highly-paid bean counters produce reports on the irrelevant or obvious. The economy is heading towards a cliff edge, propelled by waste. Will anyone materialise to apply the brake?

Story added 1st July 2012

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