Finding Your Niche: When a Community Need Leads to a Job
This may sound a little silly. However, I’m not kidding when I say that the following anecdote is, at its root, the story of a job being created by a community deficit.
A few months back, I had chalked it up to a misunderstanding when my neighbor below told me that he worked at an ATM machine (previous discussion on ATMs in Azerbaijan here). I had been walking by this particular ATM after a visit to the store next to it when I saw my neighbor, Jeyhun. He said something about working and pointed at the machine, and then talked about how some Americans (or other non-Russian foreigners) had come to that ATM and used it while he was there. And he had mentioned in there that he was working at the ATM. We had parted ways and I was headed home when I realized that he might have meant that he actually works at the ATM.
It wasn’t until today that I saw, in person, Jeyhun earning his keep. As I walked past the store and the Kapital Bank ATM, I saw Jeyhun there, surrounded by a crowd of eager ATM patrons, slipping cards and flipping cash. He was working at the ATM.
Sounds a little silly, right?
Unfortunately, Jeyhun is actually providing a necessary service for a significant population of pensioners and other people who don’t read in the Latin script or who don’t know how to use an ATM. There are many of them. I say unfortunately because we all wish that everyone here could read effectively and use basic ATM kiosks. Instead, there are a lot of people who can’t read what’s on the ATM (remember: Azerbaijani has changed its written form at least four times in the last 100 years) and have trouble following the instructions. We Peace Corps Volunteers have varying attitudes towards this lack of ATM skills. Some insist on guiding the disadvantaged ATM user through hitting the buttons themselves to get their money, teaching them how to use the machine for once. Others just do the transaction for the user, since once or twice through won’t learn them the Azerbaijani Latin script or basic ATM functions.
I’d like to learn more about this ATM-operator transaction: is having Jeyhun carry out the transacation optional? Does he charge a flat fee for his services or does he calculate a percentage of the withdrawal? Does he charge people differently based on age and gender? Does Kapital Bank know that Jeyhun is creating a small enterprise with their ATM on Zərifə Əliyeva Prospekti in Lənkəran? If they knew, would they care?
At the end of the day, though, Jeyhun has his “job”, a service job, and his patrons have their cash. It’s certainly a service which is necessary here, since there is such a large population which can’t use the ATM effectively. Jeyhun has recognized a need and stepped in admirably to see it resolved (at least for now). Jeyhun’s job, however, does have an indefinite but certain sunset. As pensioners pass on, he’ll have fewer clients and more people who want to hit the green “Enter” button, themselves. Much like other problems in Azerbaijan, this is a generational one. As one generation passes to the next, Jeyhun will have to find another job (though you can’t fault him for his current choice: works his own hours, no boss but himself, handles lots of cash and responsibility).