Eight Things You Can Do to Restore the Missing Human Element in Economy

why_property_is_needed Eight Things You Can Do to Restore the Missing Human Element in EconomyIf there is any common experience where one feels the inhuman aspect of modern economy, it is the ubiquitous phone messaging systems. There is nothing more frustrating than having a concrete problem that need resolving only to have a mechanical voice list the options that do not correspond to your needs.

I had this happen recently when I ordered a book by mail which took a long time to arrive. When the package finally came in the mail, I opened it up with great expectation only to find that I had been sent the wrong book. I immediately got on the phone to complain to the small bookshop in South Carolina, not without some irritation. My displeasure only increased when an answering machine kicked in.


RTO-mini2 Eight Things You Can Do to Restore the Missing Human Element in EconomyFree Book: Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go


However, I suddenly realize that this machine had no mechanical voice. The lady who had recorded the message had one of the sweetest Southern accents I had ever heard and she had a very charming and original way of telling me my options.  I was so enchanted by the recording that, when I finally did get to speak to a real person, my irritation was gone. Moreover, the real person on the line had a similar charm and accent. She profusely apologized and helped resolve my problem.

It was a small incident but one where you could sense that human element so often missing from modern economy. In the drive to maximize efficiency, those little things that give spice and warmth to life and economy are often overlooked. The cold mechanical aspect prevails since there is no nuance among the options that impose themselves upon us. If we are to return to order, this refreshing human element is a good place to start.  A refreshing personal touch that no machine can match should be one of the options on the menu. We need to go beyond press one or press two.

This is, of course, something anyone can do. We can easily list eight things that you can do as a consumer or as an employee to restore this human element.

1.    It can be as simple as showing genuine solicitude to those who you serve and showing gratitude to those who give you good service. A store clerk with the right attitude can go a long way toward conveying the idea of caring about the person and the reputation of the business.

2.    We can be courteous to those who exercise repetitive tasks where the human element is little evident – a simple good morning to the parking attendant can brighten up his day.

3.    We can display personality in the tasks of the day with a personal touch that shows warmth, courtesy or concern. A shuttle driver, for example, engaging in interesting conversation with passengers can make the ride more than just transportation.

4.    We can make efforts to put something beautiful in a surrounding business environment – perhaps art or flowers that uplift.

15_Flower_Market_In_A_French_Town Eight Things You Can Do to Restore the Missing Human Element in Economy5.    We can insist upon principles and manners – nothing so degrades us than vulgarity and obscenity. Nothing facilitates better business relationships than common courtesy.

6.    We can depart from the fads and fashions that often establish a low common denominator and do much to depress the atmosphere of the marketplace. This can be done, for example, by dressing and presenting ourselves with modesty and taste.

7.    We might begin by preferring to talk to a real person rather than a machine when there is an option. We can also slow down and enter the store rather than use the drive-through/rush-through window.

8.    When there is an option, we can avoid the ubiquitous self-service alternative and deal directly with someone who can help us. Let someone serve you.

Subscription8.112 Eight Things You Can Do to Restore the Missing Human Element in EconomyAll these things are simple ways to start restoring that essential human element in economy — and they are also good for business. This vision of economy is part of the model suggested in my book, Return to Order, From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here and Where We Need to Go. At this point, we need to put options like these on the table. We must go beyond pressing one or two from a standardized menu read by a cold mechanical voice.

  • Paul Folley

    A very good point: we have become machines in a mechanistic society. These practical easy-to-do tips will benefit not only the people we deal with, but ourselves as well, by helping us not to become frustrated by the situations we are in every day. Thank you .

  • 441019

    I completely agree with this article. And since there are so many people unemployed today in our society, if real, live persons were hired by businesses to answer phone calls, it would provide more employment. I remember when gas station attendants used to pump our gas and wash our car windows and check our oil–wouldn’t it be nice if it were still that way? In California, you pump your own gas; but in Oregon, you have to let an attendant do it.

    • terry1956

      I would be in favor of the gas station attendants which I did 35 years ago at a Truck stop but I would vote against a law mandating.

  • Maria

    These are great tips; especially remembering to be courteous to those who exercise repetitive tasks where the human element is little evident. Just smiling and saying thank you takes such little effort on our part but can make all the difference to that person.

  • kathy

    At the grocery store, at the end of my check-out period, after thanking the checker, I thank the person behind me for their patience.

    Every time I see person in an American military uniform, I stop, shake hands with them and thank them for what they do for me on a daily basis. Then I tell them what branches of the military my father, two brothers and husband served in – all different. I always puts a smile on their face. Once it was a woman, coming out of a drug store. The timing couldn’t have been better. I gave thanked her for her service to me daily and said I truly appreciated it, told her to have a great day and gave her a hug. She then told me the clerk in the store had ignored her and served 5 people other than her though she was first in line. She was feeling complete rejected and shared how I was the first person ever to thank her for serving me. She left with a smile.

    When I end a conversation in person or on the phone I always try to say “God bless you.” Some say “thank you”, others offer me God’s blessing too.

  • Esteban Rubio

    In a teacher – student relationship; manners from the teacher are very
    important. Not only because the example is
    set, but to demonstrate respect for the individual. Besides, courtesy
    facilitates the learning experience.

  • Marcia Weisz

    I agree and I try to do all those things suggested whenever I think about it or possible.

  • Patricia Ford de la Tejera

    I live in Mission, Texas, right across the Rio Grande River from Reynosa, Mexico. I see frequent acts of kindness and testimony to the Christian faith. I lost my cell phone, and the man who found it called a recent number I had dialed, contacted my grandson, and waited until my grandson arrived to retrieve the phone. Typical of our towns along the border.
    My son-in-law, Jorge, and friends organized a fundraiser for David, an acquaintance, who was in the hospital with a stroke (no insurance) and raised 12,000 dollars, selling plates of chicken, rice, and beans. They have done many of these, and plan another one soon for a lady who has lupus and cannot work. They stay up all night cooking and stay all day selling and serving.
    Fortified with a little tequila, of course. The wives also are involved, selling tickets, serving, etc. This network of friends and family is a phenomena that is so inspiring that it renews ones faith in God. Christians in action, serving those in need. I love the people here in the Rio Grande Valley. I am from West Virginia, and have lived in Rhode Island, Missouri, and Mexico. Now I live among people from Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Central America, and Mexico. I feel surrounded by love, kindness, and good manners.
    So many blessings. Patricia Ford de la Tejera

    • SovereignAmerican

      It’s nice to hear that some neighborhoods still work. This is the way the USA used to work. People looking after people. Personally, since the ’60’s, it seems that too many believe that the gov’t should resolve societal problems. I feel this is because we. as a nation, failed to keep out trust in God. Imagine how much more we could do if the gov’t didn’t keep coming up with more ways to raid our wallets. Beside, it was much nicer to see the smile on the face you helped.

      • leslie

        There is a plan to bring down the USA by those that rule over the government and even the president. Unfortunately these people have tremendous wealth to buy out politicians and whoever has the wealth is in control.

        • SovereignAmerican

          Or so they think. Even though I struggle with it at times, I still believe God has the ultimate control.

          • Rudy Denham


        • terry1956

          Buying out the politicians of course happens a lot but usually more so in DC and Brussels than locally its members of congress, the white house and in Brussels the EU Assembly and EU Bureaucrats shaking people and firms done for money and power.
          The firms and banks know for a fact that the central politicians can shut them down, throw them in prison and throw away the key.

      • MaryB435

        Excellent points!

  • Dianne Vandervoort

    Dianne Vandervoort — I so agree with this article. Just in the last few days I was given a second chance by the website testing firm I work for. Something caused my equipment to malfuncation. The young man in charge gave me a second chance. He did not have to do that.

  • Paul van Dongen

    Me and my wife own a small company. We work day and night. We are members of the board so to speak and we clean our own toilets at the same time. We have to be kind to every customer we have. Small customer, big customer we cherish them all. Very satisfactory too. Can’t imagine doing it any other way.

    • Laboiserie

      Just a thought, how about “My wife and I own a small company” rather than “Me and my wife”

      • Mary Kay Scanlon

        Really? Judge much??

  • C. Trcic

    A few weeks ago I had an experience that restored my faith in humanity! I had been treated rudely by a check out clerk at our local pharmacy. I said nothing in reply but she must have seen the look on my face. I always knew her to be terse and have an unhappy demeanor so it was no surprise. Several weeks after the incident at the check out I had her once again as my check out clerk. She gave me a very sincere apology saying she knew she hurt my feelings! That took a lot of guts to do that in public! I told her that too as well as how much I appreciated her apology and accepted it! Now we greet each other by name and with a smile when I shop!

  • Churchill4President

    Google, YouTube and Amazon have modeled their business on this philosophy as well. Have a problem with Google, YouTube or Amazon? It’s practically impossible to talk to a real person.

    At these companies, decisions are made not by humans but by algorithms. The popular review service Yelp does this as well. In fact, they absolve the negative impact on the reputation of businesses caused by their “review filter” by blaming the algorithm itself — even though a human had to program it. Humanity has been extricated from the process.

    Commerce used to be an exchange from buyer and seller. No more in this impersonal brave new world.

  • Colleen Sheehy

    Dealing with our fellow humans also helps to preserve their jobs! Our local quick-service mart installed self-checkout machines, which I refuse to use. Each time a customer does the check-out clerk’s job, it gives management more of an excuse to cut the clerk’s hours and ultimately to eliminate the job.

    I know you’re not fond of social media in general, but it does get management’s attention when used judiciously to praise outstanding employees.

  • Angela

    You are so right about this Mr. Horvat. My Grandfather taught me many of the kind ways to treat others. He was always a gentleman and well respected by the community! To me he was the epitome of the Renaisance Man. thank you for bringing back beautiful memories.

  • Frank Cicero

    We can all start by supporting small business owners even if you pay a slightly higher price provided that the service is in line with the price. I hope that Trump enacts anti trust laws to gang banger corporations such as Uber,Facebook, google and related companies. What Uber did to the taxi industry is disgraceful and what they give to their naive drivers is despicable.

  • William Jacko

    An essay with good intentions, but it treats the symptoms rather than the disease. We need to shop small whenever possible. We need to rethink our obsession with finding the lowest price. Americans are becoming the misers of the universe. We need to enact laws that encourage small property to flourish while discouraging greedily ambitious people from cornering the market, ruining their neighbors, and turning their downtown districts into ghost towns. For instance, if you want to open a small business, you will receive tax breaks and subsidies (yes, small business owners, not corporations) for opening the business. If you want to open a franchise, we will tax you. If you want to open a third store, we will tax you heavily. If you want to open a fourth, we will tax you prohibitively. The tax revenue from franchises and big stores will go entirely toward subsidizing small businesses, not big government. This would encourage an economy of owners, rather than bullied managers working for unfeeling corporations with overpaid CEOs and inhuman human resources departments; and I can’t think of anything more inhuman than a human resources department (think Dilbert here). But small businesses have no human resources department. The owner of the business has to look his employees in the eyes when he terminates them; no out-of-touch CEOs issuing edicts from the top of their skyscrapers in a faraway state. The small business owner is so much more likely to close his business on Sunday and give his employees family time. And if the customer has a problem with the product or service, there’s no bureaucracy to wade through; he can accost the business owner and tell him off if necessary. That is what we are encouraging when we shop small. And this type of Hobbit-style economy will appeal to the union haters out there, because it obviates unions; it will also appeal to Wall-Street haters, because it cuts into their precious markets. Furthermore, it gives the business owners economic as well as political freedom, which is the only avenue to true free speech, because if you’re afraid of losing your job over something you say (like “Merry Christmas,” for instance), then you don’t really have political freedom; your free speech is just an illusion. There’s so much more that can be done to treat the disease rather than the symptoms, but there’s neither time nor space here; and better writers have already written books on the subject. I’m just trying to inspire some thinking outside the box, outside conventional business prejudices that keep things exactly the way they are, which is not functioning properly. Isn’t that what this election was all about: both Republicans and Democrats fed up with the status quo? The emphasis on ripping up trade agreements is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. This would be real economic change. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an economy that serves us, rather than the other way around?

    • Lukas Lumbantobing

      In case of service industry fine, but how to apply it in manufacturing or even defense industry?

  • Windy Hageman

    The one that really bugs me the most about this removal of personal interaction is the doctor patient relationship. So now you can schedule your appointments email your doctor all online and all out of convenience. I think that will disintegrate the relationship between patients and doctors making it even easier to betray the Hippocratic oath.

    • smartypants

      They no longer are required to take the oath. Can you tell?

  • Thank you! As a recovering mathematician and scientist, I completely agree that machines are incapable of judgment, and will never be able to do anything but imitate true art.