Junk-Mail Firm Straps GPS Devices To People Handing Out Pamphlets

from the how-low-can-you-go? dept

Down in Australia, a firm that hires teens to deliver junk-mail pamphlets to houses has decided to make their processes a bit more efficient by forcing the kids to wear a GPS device that records all their moves -- making sure they visit the houses they were assigned and do so in the order prescribed by the company. Some of the kids aren't particularly happy about being spied on this way, and apparently the company expected that. With the information pack about the GPS devices, they included a simple resignation form for those who weren't happy about the idea. Again, it seems like this is a modern attempt to bring back Taylorism, the idea that all workplace activities can be scientifically monitored and made more efficient -- as if people were machines. There's nothing wrong with working on ways to make employees more productive, but it needs to occur with the recognition that they're human beings and constantly spying on them and making them feel inadequate tends to hurt productivity more than it helps. It certainly doesn't make for particularly loyal employees. Perhaps that's fine for a business such as a junk-mail pamphleteer, but there is still a cost involved in hiring and training new people, while being able to fill in for those who quit. It's one of those things that sounds good to management (oooh, efficiency! productivity!) but whose consequences aren't carefully thought out. Of course, the firm responds to such charges by including the standard line that no one who is actually a good worker should be upset about being tracked, since it's only designed to spot the bad workers.

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  1. identicon
    Jason, 2 Nov 2006 @ 5:17pm

    This is a necessary development...

    As someone who used to do this very job in high school, and as someone whose family owns a company with unaddressed delivery people, I believe this is a necessary development.

    A few reasons:

    Delivery people of this type often throw their materials away and not delivery them at all. I know this because I did it once or twice. If you can get paid without delivering them, why not save yourself the trouble. It is a lot of effort to prove you never did the work.

    Efficiency is important. We once asked one of our employees how many items he thought he delivered that day. His response: 75. If the postal service worked at that speed, we'd never get any mail.

    Accountability to clients. We considered delivering materials for other companies at one point. We tried it, and they simply claimed that we never delivered anything. If we had some sort of record that proved that our employees hit the neighborhoods as required, we might consider offering this service again.

    I know nothing about workplace surveillance laws, but I don't think this counts. This is not a matter of trying to spy on people, trying to see what they are doing or where they are going in their personal life. This is about measuring output.

    If this is surveillance, then tracking the manufacturing output of a factory worker is as well. Nobody is asking these people to wear them at home. Nobody is asking anything unreasonable of them.

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