Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

One of the touching things about Starbucks is that so much is out in the open.

You can see how hard the baristas are working.

You can even spot whether managers actually manage and even contribute when the store is busy.

Yet as the coffee chain has encouraged more and more customers to order via its app, not everyone has been thrilled.

Lines get longer and coffee gets delivered more slowly, as the appsters push in to grab their coffee and go.

Baristas have to work far harder at peak times, as the orders keep pouring in from all sides -- and don't forget the drive-thru.

And some customers really do still want a personal service. Or do they?

Last year, Starbucks began to remove some of the barista's daytime duties -- allowing them to perform them in quiet periods or after hours -- so that they could be (a little) more focused on customers.

Last week however, as CNBC reported, the chain announced that from next year it's removing an additional 17 hours a week of slightly mundane, impersonal duties. 

This includes such elements as automating inventory and creating schedules digitally. (How odd, some might think that Starbucks was slower to digitize for its employees than for its customers.)

The result ought to be that baristas will have a little more time to look your in the eye and laugh at your T-shirt or your morning scowl. (Well, at least in my case.)

Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer said the result will be baristas "have better jobs, deliver a better customer experience and just modernize what's happening in our stores."

Starbucks knows that one of its most important components has always been the relationship baristas create with customers.

Yet is that truly the future?

The whole point of automation is to reduce personal contact and, allegedly, increase speed of service.

Is it so difficult to conceive of a Starbucks that doesn't bother with much personal contact at all?

After all, McDonald's is currently testing so-called McDonald's To Go restaurants, where you order on a screen in the restaurant, pick up your food and go. Perhaps you can wave to the people in the kitchen, but this isn't an attempt to enhance personal service.

Oh, and this just in. Starbucks is testing something even more impersonal.

It's a Manhattan store that only caters to those who order via the app. Starbucks says that if this is a success, the idea will be expanded to other big cities like L.A., Chicago and San Francisco.

Big city people don't want to chat, perhaps. They're far too busy being big city people. 

There's a certain tension in such ideas.

Customers claim they enjoy something personal. At the same time, technology has made us far more impatient and instilled the belief that we should have everything we want right now.

When I waft into my local Starbucks, I see Kurshina, Marie, Danny, Sherine and Kenya working really hard to satisfy a multitude of customers, some physical and some virtual.

Next year, I wonder whether they'll be allowed a little more space for interaction.

Or whether, one day soon, they'll be limited to a more anonymous life.

Published on: Sep 7, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.