Have you ever wondered why many stores now no longer require a signature when you make a purchase of $25 or less with a credit card?  Today, I found out why.

It has to do with the pressure to increase employee efficiency.  So how do you make employees more efficient?  According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, you change practices.  Consider:

Then, you start clocking employees.  For example:

Daniel A. Gunther has good reason to keep his checkout line moving at the Meijer Inc. store north of Detroit. A clock starts ticking the instant he scans a customer’s first item, and it doesn’t shut off until his register spits out a receipt.

To assess his efficiency, the store’s computer takes into account everything from the kinds of merchandise he’s bagging to how his customers are paying. Each week, he gets scored. If he falls below 95% of the baseline score too many times, the 185-store megastore chain, based in Walker, Mich., is likely to bounce him to a lower-paying job, or fire him.

According to the article, the cost is, in large part, paid by the employee in the form of comfort on the job, the ability to make human contact with regular customers, and having to be mean to old ladies to get them to hurry up. 

Jay Livingston has a nice analysis.