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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Technological Check-Out: A Dunce Wins

I am a technological moron. Not a Luddite, you understand, just a born-out-of-time unfortunate for whom technology is a closed book, so to speak.
I could follow current fashion and blame my parents, but the honest truth is that I’m just not hard-wired for the modern world.
True, they refused to install a telephone until I was in my 18th year and eschewed microwave ovens – the rays gave you cancer - and air-conditioning because it was a breeding ground for ebola.
True, they didn’t embrace colour television until 1982 and my mother is still watching her tiny supply of Beta videos on the grounds that it would be a waste of money to replace something that still works perfectly well, but I know, deep down, that I’m just not interested.
I don’t own an I-phone. I assume an I-pad is what the Incontinence Society recommends for those embarrassing dribble moments.
A Tablet is something you take for a hangover, a Kindle comes in handy when lighting the bbq and an E-reader is the dumb kid stuck at the back of the class reading Little Golden Books.
A Blackberry will take over the garden if you don’t get on top of it early, a Cloud delivers rain or reminds you of a duck or a horse and a Blue-tooth is, I assume, a species of whale.
The last time I bought a mobile phone, the salesperson looked at me with a mixture of incredulity and pity when I interrupted his spiel to give him the bad news: I wanted a mobile phone that, well, made and received phone calls.
I accept that I am a technological black hole totally unsuited to modern life. I still buy newspapers made of paper, for God’s sake.
What I won’t accept, however, is retail behemoths using ‘technology’ as an excuse for providing crap service.
I’m above naming the behemoth in question, so for the sake of convenience we’ll call it, I dunno, K-Mart.
When I was growing up retail behemoths, or shops, employed people called check-out chicks who processed your purchases through something called a ‘till’ and packed your goods in brown paper bags, which you took home and bequeathed to the cat as a ‘play-cave’.
All of this gradually changed, of course. The check-out chicks were joined by check-out ladies and check-out pimply-faced boys and paper bags were banned in order to save trees, replaced by plastic bags which killed dolphins.
Then, check-out persons gradually start to disappear, like blonde bimbo extras in a B-grade chainsaw/slasher horror movie.
Finally, check-outs themselves disappeared as retail behemoths sought to offer their customers the ‘convenience’ of self-service.
Unfortunately, in a perfect storm of incompetence and greed, K-Mart has never been known to employ the most technically savvy staff and is too scungy to provide the new, improved dolphin-killing plastic bags at its self-service check-outs.
I visited K-Mart last week to purchase a DVD. I selected my movie and proceeded to the ‘self-service’ checkout, which invited me to scan my purchase. Check.
It then invited me to place the DVD in the bag suspended above the sensor pad. Oops.
No bag. I put the DVD on the sensor, but the machine informed me that a bag was required. I would have to begin the process again.
No worries, I thought, I’ll just pop my back-pack on the sensor. It’s a bag, after all. No dice, said the increasingly irate computer.
“Your transaction has been timed out. Please begin again”.
Sigh. No problems. Scan DVD.
“Please place item in bag”. No bag. Start all over again.
Eventually a staff member wandered over to enquire as to why I was negotiating with the machine via a series of short-arm jabs.
I explained the problem. She considered the problem. She harked back to her training. She drew on her deep resource of technological know-how.
“You need to have a bag,” she said.
“I already have a bag,” I replied, indicating my back-pack.
Again, her training kicked in.
“That’s not a plastic bag.”
“You don’t have any plastic bags.”
“They are banned.”
“But the machine wants me to have a plastic bag on the sensor, otherwise it won’t let me buy this DVD.”
Clearly, this was a scenario not covered in her extensive training. She gave it some thought. She took a key from her pocket. Did something to the machine and scanned the DVD. The machine, clearly spooked by the key thing, accepted her authority and processed the transaction!
Before I could seal the deal and pay for my purchase, she turned to me and said: “I have to remove the security tag from the DVD.”
She went away. She was away for so long, the machine ran out of patience.
“Your transaction has been time out. Please start again.”
Clearly, even a technological moron such as myself could discern that this wasn’t exactly how the system was supposed to work.
Maintaining my legendary sang froid I informed the employee that she had been most helpful, kicked the machine repeatedly and strolled down to the store’s single manned check-out.
I had to wait a mere 15 minutes while the spotty adolescent check-out person processed the purchases of the person in front of me.
A bit of a behemoth herself, she was either buying supplies for a Girl Guide troop or hadn’t taken a good look in the mirror lately.
Anyway, when the 63 pairs of size 8 knickers and 27 pairs of terry-towelling camel-toe enablers had been squared away, I presented my lone DVD. Paid for and tucked away in my back-pack in about 10 seconds flat.
Technological moron I may be, but there are times when the dangers of relying on technology make my paper moon shine all the brighter.

Oh, and the DVD I went through hell to buy? ‘I, Robot’.

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