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  • Siria Contreras

How Now Are You?




With November only a week away and end of year fast-approaching, I don’t know that many of us have yet had the opportunity to reflect much on all that we have or haven’t accomplished this year as of yet. Fret not, you’ve still got 69 days until 2022 is officially here.


For all of us, this year has been about moving forward in whichever way made sense for each of us. That may have meant moving on from situations, places, people, things, and potentially even professions. This year has been dubbed as being the year of the “great resignation” due to the disproportionate amount of job openings vs. applicants/employees. While out running errands this past weekend, I’m fairly certain that every single place I visited had a “Now Hiring” sign outside of their establishment. I’ve also seen the extremes in the recent past where vacancies have even been advertised on billboards.


So what is really happening? How are people surviving economically? For certain industries some people are thriving and they are juggling almost more than they can manage at the moment. As I drove around yesterday running those errands I found myself wondering how certain “niche” businesses are keeping their doors open. Especially those with actual brick and mortar--for so many industries it just doesn’t make sense to me for them to have physical locations anymore, I don’t see how they justify the overhead at these times.


While I am lucky and ok financially at this time, I definitely have reigned in my budget a bit after the curveball that was 2020, as I know many people others have. Sure, we all still spend money on food-delivery, entertainment/streaming apps, and yes many other things. However, in example I know that I have done a lot less clothes shopping since I wasn’t having to go out as much (don’t feel too bad for me--as it was I probably already had enough outfits to wear a different one each day for a whole year or more so it probably did my closet some good to not have more added to it). However, I know for many others online shopping helped to fill a void, even if they didn’t necessarily have the funds to cover that temporary fix. In the past few months, I tested a few of those pay over time platforms for a client and I found them more annoying than convenient because I kept forgetting to make the regular payment for some as they all had different terms. Honestly, I would rather just pay for an item all at once when it comes to clothing, etc. Larger purchases of course may work better in monthly installments. One thing that did result from this exercise though was to prompt me to refinance my car as I realized I could have an even better interest rate at this time cutting my monthly payment enough to make the effort worthwhile, something I probably wouldn’t have even thought to do if I hadn’t gone through this. However, this also opened me up to being spammed by what felt like every lender online. I’ll write about this experience at some point as there were a lot of learnings around these two areas within the financial services sector.


My biggest fear though is the debt that people could go on living beyond their means thanks to services like Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, Paypal Pay in 4 (the one I especially kept forgetting about payment due dates) etc. I don't judge anyone if they're using these because they actually need them.


Another area that I stopped to think about are so many other services that I typically only need once and then not again for a while and even the ongoing fees can’t be enough to sustain small businesses. It’s one thing when you have 100,000 subscribers at $5 or $10 per month, but when you’re a small neighborhood business and that number looks more like 200 clients at $5 to $10 p/month it’s a whole different story.


So what does the new American Dream actually look like? Well, it’s different for everyone these days I think. It’s no longer the one size fits all--white picket fence, 2.5 children, 401ks, retire at 65, etc. Sure, some people still want that and if you’re one of them there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, the ever-growing digital and tech worlds have completely changed what we perceive as successful and what brings us joy and fulfillment. We also now realize that we don't have to follow in the footsteps of the generations that came before us.


So what starts to happen to the industries with all of the Now Hiring signs? Well, if they want to stay in business they change their model, and it may just end up being their "people" or employee model.


It’s safe to say that a fair percentage of us by now have used self-checkout services. That is no longer as intimidating to most people, especially now that everyone is a digital and tech native thanks to 2020 and 2021. So if all of these chain stores, fast-food restaurants, etc. cannot have all of their roles filled by humans it is fair to say that we may start to see an acceleration of automated tellers. It used to be that this tech revolution caused us to feel a sadness for those career grocery store clerks and managers, etc.


Yet, now with people not wanting those jobs any longer that might eliminate that human element of empathy--these machines would no longer be taking coveted roles that families rely upon they’d be filling roles that can’t seem to stay filled. Sure, seeing friendly familiar faces on your regular trips to the places you frequent is nice, but I guess I don't really need that human interaction when paying for my groceries, although I'd still kind of like an actual person in the deli section--so as we'll find not all roles are replaceable by tech, yet more than we realize are.


I know some of this revolving door of unreliable employees cycle first-hand from our own restaurant.


Even places like car washes I feel like I don't visit those with humans very often, opting for the drive-thru remain in your vehicle automated variations mostly to avoid the waiting area that is typically filled with men who as a woman either want to hit on you or try to talk cars or sports to you or a combination of the three, when you'd likely rather not engage in conversation with any of them in that moment--no offense (tip- sunglasses and a book help mildly). Although, I did recently have my car detailed and it proved to be worthwhile beyond a deeper clean as one of the reps spotted small crack in my front windshield and they were able to fix it on the spot at that location (I'm guessing another add-on service now pushed more heavily to close the gap on less business).


Banks are another area where I rarely need to go inside of my financial institutions as I can do most everything I need from their apps or an ATM. Behavior that is also preparing us for digital currencies, but that's another topic for another day.


So, as we head into 2022 we could see some change occur in many areas over the next decade, but the above are just some low-hanging fruit. To be honest, we're already living in more of an automated world than we realize and as we see more machines take the place of humans, it'll be interesting to see how we all adapt.


To say the least, 2021 certainly has been a busy and interesting year and I probably have at least another 20-25 write-ups that I could publish on observations, trends, and learnings in various industries, and while I’d love to take a moment for those deep-dives, first I’d need to find the time to dedicate to them. So instead, you may all have to settle for 2-4 more before the year ends and hopefully the rest will find themselves to you via other format mediums eventually.



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