Charlie Teljeur: Careful what you wish for
|By Charlie Teljeur - Contributing Writer | April 5, 2018|
I was three-deep in a lineup of four customers at a local store on the weekend. It was nothing terribly insurmountable although some amongst us might have been a little more bothered by the quandary. For me, it was just a matter of an extra few minutes. No big deal really.
Sensing the potential of building customer frustration (and no doubt following advised corporate procedure) the young guy running the till mentioned to all of us that there was indeed some self-checkout stations for anybody using debit or credit cards. None of us moved. I think the guy running the till thought we were either stupid or, more
likely, technologically-inept. I was neither.
I fought the urge to say something at that point but decided to keep from spouting some unwanted but certainly warranted advice. It would have simply been: “The more of them (self checkout stations) there are, the fewer of you (cash boy) there will be in the future.” Of course, the kid was just doing his job and was probably too young and too enamoured with technology to get the dire implications of the policy but I did and I hope the others in line did as well.
Technology is a strange beast and our fixation with it is even stranger. By no means am I against the advancement of technology, I just think we’re reaching that point where we have to seriously look at what we want from it. Too many of us (especially those who design this stuff) think tech is the elixir for everything and they’re wrong for one very simple
reason: They equate that faster is better, for everything. “Easier” is better, “safer” is better, and “smarter” is better but faster, plain and simple, isn’t necessarily better but try telling that to the tech people. Keep in mind that to them, “faster” equates to “cheaper” and tech companies are nothing if not dollar-driven (fair enough).
Thing is, it’s up to us as consumers to determine where the lines will be drawn here. I’m sure there are those reading this thinking “it’s a self-checkout. Relax” but you need to respond when the house is being designed, not when the drapes are being installed, or your objections become protests. Just think about the retail scenario I’m highlighting though if you need to see it clearer. The store has people working cash registers and self-checkout stations as options. Gradually, as more people are corralled towards the stations, it’s not so important to have so many actual people working the floor. Soon you’re left with nothing but a manager and some inexperienced people stocking shelves. Multiply it by a store the size of WalMart and now try getting your refund or exchange. No wait, the robot will help you with the refund – assuming you answer the questions appropriately.
As paranoid as this may sound, this argument isn’t coming from a Luddite with no tech experience whatsoever. My job is actually heavily immersed in this world but there are times, and situations, that just don’t need to be run by bots no matter how much “easier” it would make the process. I guess I’m saying I have no real issues with having to deal with the “imperfections” of another human being. Who knows, we might even like each other. Put that in your algorithm.
Charlie Teljeur is a contributing writer for The Highlander.