The (Perceived) and Real Evils of Self-Checkout

Self-checkout seems to be a fairly controversial thing, and we all know The Grump is all about controversy, and I’ve been thinking of writing on this subject for awhile.  First off, let’s be real, some of the “reasons” for being against them are really dumb… as is the case with so many things in today’s society, not just in politics.  Things from “I’m not employed here”, and so on.  But if you’re as old as I am and you remember having to go inside to pay for your gas instead of pay at the pump that argument is specious.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at some reasons in the photo attached…

1) They kill jobs.

Ok, I suppose they could.  I mean, there are fewer people up front, and for some businesses that would be a definite boon.

2) Self-checkout machines don’t contribute with payroll taxes.

This is really combined with #1, and like I said it could be true, but… as my good friend Lisa pointed out to me… if the store is now moving those people to be individual shoppers for curbside pick-up then nothing is being lost in either point.  So much for those points.

3) They are really not that convenient.

Convenience depends, both on the individual and the situation.  When I have just a few items they’re very convenient.  When I have a cart full of groceries they very not convenient… at all.

Moving on with my commentary:

But none of that is why I don’t like them. Why I don’t like them is stores go out of their way to make sure using a human checker is so inconvenient I’ll want to give up and just do it myself.  They… the stores… take away my legitimate choices.

Look, I don’t expect every aisle open, but I also don’t want to see 6+ full carts lined up for a single human checker.  I’m sorry, I want a reasonable and realistic option of using a human check per #3 above, depending on MY needs, not the store’s desires.  It’s the way self-checkouts are used to make the shopping experience even more inconvenient and disrespectful to the customer.

Rant: Everything’s a Chore… ATMs, Passwords, and Bears, Oh My!

Everything’s a chore

Computers and technology were supposed to make life easier.  Computers and technology were supposed to give us more free time.  Granted, most of us aren’t churning our own butter anymore, so there are certainly benefits to our modem lifestyle in the information age, but it’s not all a cakewalk, either.  Now, the following examples aren’t life threatening, they aren’t going to bring you to your knees, and they most certainly aren’t the most important thing you will deal with.  But they are annoying, frustrating, high blood pressure inducing… and they are most certainly unnecessary time stealers, and they’re all a byproduct of computers and technology.  Here’s just a few of them…

Getting a new debit card

I am the Treasurer for a local Toastmasters club.  The old debit card had expired and I got a new card in the mail.  Called and activated it and set the PIN.  So far, so good.  Then kept getting declined when I went to pay people’s dues, so I called the bank. Turns out I have to use it at an ATM as a second step, then it would work fine. *sigh*  Ok, thank you, I cheerily said.

So, I had to get in the car, drive to a bank, check my balance, and drive back home. Then it worked fine. *smh*

“For your protection…”

Last Saturday I had a photo shoot and on my way out of town stopped at a convenience store for some drinks for the ride.  My debit card (from a small local credit union) got declined.  Hmmm, that’s weird, I know there’s plenty of money in the account.  I try four times, declined every time, so I pull out a credit card and pay.

I then go to the ATM at said credit union which happened to be right next door.  The ATM looks suspicious like when I computer has been reset.  Had to go to the photo shoot, so I can’t call the credit union until Monday… which is another pet peeve of mine… you want people to abandon big banks and go local, then have someone to answer phones and deal with people during off hours.  But I digress.

Monday morning and I try the card again.  No go.  Good thing I had cash on me, which I normally don’t anymore.  I decide to visit said credit union branch in person.

To cut to the chase, through three visits to their ATM, and two visits inside to talk to a person, it turns out there was a “scheduled maintenance” (skeptical, there is no email evidence of such in my email) of the system on Saturday morning and my card usage was bad timing.  Then, because I tried four times, which is one more than the maximum of three allowed, my card was locked.

I’m sorry, but if it’s YOUR down time, then shouldn’t YOU be aware enough to make sure these things don’t happen?  Plus, back to the big bank vs credit union thing, big banks don’t have down times for “scheduled maintenance”, yet small banks and credit unions do.  It’s the 21st century, get with the program.

Passwords

How do you do your passwords for internet sites?  Do you have one for everything?  Do you mix them up?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what you want to do, you can’t do that.

You can’t have a single password for everything (which they say is a bad idea).  All require letters, but some require at least one capital letter, some require at least one number, some require at least one “special character” (i.e.: !@#$%, etc., and not all allow the same special characters), and none all have the same requirements, it’s a mix-and-match, so even if you wanted to have one password you can’t.

So, you have many different passwords.  Ok.  How do you remember them all?  Do you write them down on a piece of paper or a computer file?  They say you’re not supposed to do that either, btw.

How about one of those password organization sites?  I would think the chances of that getting hacked is greater than little ol’ me getting hacked.

There is no perfect answer.  And don’t even get me started on requirements to change my password every so often.

Money and ATMs

One of the great things where small banks and credit unions shine over the big banks is doing the small things to make life easier for the customer.  (That’s you and me, btw.)  One of these things is allowing ATM withdrawals in $5 increments.  This is so handy.  Sometimes I just need $5 or $10 for something small, and there is no need to force me to drain my account more than necessary.

Within the last year two of my credit unions have changed their policy and now only allow $20 increments.  This does not serve me well, and removes one of the key points for being with a credit union.  If I’m going to be treated like I’m at a big bank I might as well do business with a big bank and gain the added benefits, like the ability to call on a Saturday evening and talk to someone and get my issues solved.  (See what I did there?)

Conclusion

This turned out wordy.  😛

Three things Facebook needs to do to improve my experience

Hey Facebook… I’m lookin’ at you, Mr. Zuckerberg… your product is pretty good, but needs help.  I have three things that should be easy peasy for you to fix, because I think you do them on purpose.  Let’s get started..

Put things in order.  News feed and notifications, both.  Skeptical Ken says you do this on purpose because you want people to be confused and stumbling around the site.  You want them spending more time, doing more clicks, that appeals to advertisers, and so on.  It also makes you look incompetent, even though it’s deviously brilliant.  If Social Fixer can put the news feed in order, so can you, and you know it.

Stop notifying me when people I don’t know do something.  Whenever I comment on a friend’s thread I get notifications when people I don’t know… and don’t want to know… post as well.  Let Annoyed Ken carefully phrase this so it’s crystal clear:  I… don’t… care.   I don’t even care if they post in response to my comment, or tag me by name.  All it does it muck up my notifications, which I already have to navigate deftly because you refuse to put things in order.  I don’t know these people, why should I care?

Give me a place to contact with questions… and get answers.  And something easy and legit.  How about an email address or a contact form.  How about something where I can ask a question and get a human response with an answer?  At least a legit place for me to complain about your shortcomings, with a real person reading them, even if you don’t respond.  I know, I know, I know, nobody does this.  Not Yahoo, not Google, not Microsoft.  Be better.

There ya go.  These three things would enhance my experience greatly.  Please note that I did not suggest more privacy or that you don’t sell my information.  We both know that will never happen.

Three things that never should have been

Today we will take a look at three bad ideas.  Incredibly dumb, self-defeating, moronic ideas.  Fortunate for us… or maybe not… the human species is full of dumb ideas.  Now, we’re not talking things like jumping off a water tower while drunk to impress a girl who already went home with another guy.  No, we’re talking things that were intended to be completely serious, yet failed miserably anyway.  So, without further ado, let’s go…

1. Continues recycling linen towels in public restrooms.  Officially known as “Reusable Cloth Roll Towel (CRT) systems”.  Some guy with a blog… as if anyone cares what some random guy thinks, I mean really!… claims these are the best and most hygienic options for public restrooms.  Let’s look at this objectively, shall we?  In a controlled and carefully manipulated scientific atmosphere, and with light use, I’m sure these things are actually pretty decent.

But let’s also take a look at reality.  Think back to every time you’ve actually seen these contraptions in action.  They almost always tend to be in the seediest and most questionable restrooms.  Which kind of makes sense as they would appeal to the laziest of operators who want to spend as little time as possible maintaining their restrooms.  Due to questionable sanitary conditions and constant overuse, they’re all wrinkly and dirty and still wet from the last six guys who were in there doing whatever it is they do.  The linen towels on these things are always absolutely disgusting.  Hardly sanitary, let alone reassuring.  I feel better wiping my hands on my shirt.

2. Dual drive-thrus.  A relatively recent phenomenon, I can sense the logic.  Get people in and their order taken as quick as possible.  People are impatient in the first world, after all.  This will speed up the process, get people through quicker, which makes them happy, but even more important brings in more revenue, which makes us happy.  Sounds great.  In theory.

In practical reality, however, they are horrible.  Whenever you take an order, then have to ask every car in line which order is their’s, you know it’s not working as intended.  And the kicker?  They still get it wrong way too often.  You still end up driving away with somebody else’s order, wondering who got your food.

Then there’s the schmucks who risk an accident to rush around you to get in what they believe will be the quicker side.  Or the lackey who hasn’t been paying attention and takes orders out of order.  Yes, just a lovely experience all around.

3. Spray on hair, hair in a can, whatever it was called.  It was invented and sold by Ronco, inventors and makers of a plethora of supremely quirky gadgets and novelties… though I will say that my Ronco Showtime Rotisserie is freaking awesome.

Anyways, was this really intended to be serious?  As strange as it may seem, I think so.  I think Ron Popeil is supremely serious in all his inventions and innovations.  Which, of course, makes it all the funnier.  It didn’t help that the actors in the television commercials were serious.  I always wondered how they were able to keep straight faces.

This photo here is proof that it’s a good idea, right?  <wink wink, nod nod>  Men with hair get all the babes.  That’s how it works, isn’t it?  Isn’t that why some men do comb-overs?  To get the babes?  At least that’s how it’s sold to young boys and men growing up, if you don’t have a full head of hair you need the illusion of a full head of hair.  And we won’t even get into toupees, ala Mr Tudball.  The only way you can get a babe without a full head of hair is to be rich.  This thinking, naturally… no pun intended… is equally insulting to both men and women.  It implies that each sex is shallow.

Well, ok, both sexes ARE shallow in their own ways.  No one sees that about themselves, though, just the other side.

So there you have it.  We may report on more later, ya never know.

Hey!!! I was reading that!

There you are, in your local grocery store, wanting to get some Chinese take-out for dinner at home. You’re standing there perusing the menu board when… it changes! What the deuce, people?!? I was reading that! And it doesn’t even switch to more menu items, it switches to some mindless video of egg rolls and wontons being thrown in the air at each other like it’s a freakin’ combat badminton game.

*sigh* I now understand why old people act the way they do. All that kvetching is starting to make sense.

But I digress. Anyway, they’re called ‘digital menu boards’, and they’re flashy, and they’re trendy, and they make the restaurant look oh so cool and hip… and they’re completely infuriating and annoying. I, for one, am not impressed. I already know what an egg roll looks like, that’s why I’m there. I just want a list of options (with prices) so I can make my choice accordingly. It’s even worse when I’m asking a question about a certain menu item and… *facepalm*… it’s not there anymore. Never mind, now we both get to wait for the recycle. Don’t make me stand there waiting for the recycle. Maybe it’s me and my curmudgeoness, but I honestly don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I wrote recently about not being a Luddite. I welcome new ideas and chances and improvement and advancement. That’s fine. Just be honest and know that not all change is for the good.  Sometimes we overthink things.

No, I am not a Luddite!

Part of me wants technological advance to… not stop, per se… but slow down a bit.  Maybe it’s me, but I would like to, you know, spend some time just doing things and getting things done without having to spend time keeping up with and learning something new every time I turn around.  Is that too much to ask?

Yes.  Yes, it is.

Anyway, let’s track the “progress” of human communication, shall we?  It all started with grunts.  (See my first post for where grunts fit into current society.)  Pre-cave men without a clear and defined language deficiency.  Then humans moved to painting pictures on cave walls, ala the cave men.  Eventually coherent spoken language evolved, and we held with that for awhile.  Then came the written word.  People could record ideas and convey them to others in places far away, either in distance or in time.  There were some sporadic changes in terms of technology, i.e. movable type, etc., but for the most part this stayed pretty constant for a long time.

Then, the game changer:  the telephone.  Communication over long distances was instantaneous.  People could talk and share important information immediately and pretty much at any time day or night.  And really, who doesn’t need to know about Aunt Erma’s gout right now?  Yes, important information was easily shared, and the world rejoiced.

Technology started advancing more quickly.  The next big technological advancement on our communication ride was email.  Sort of an updated merging of letters and telephone, only now we could send written correspondence instantaneously.  This was wonderful.  This is what I latched onto and what I personally prefer.  I will always prefer email.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s archival… and for that reason I will defend the “bcc”, aka “the CYA” of office communication.

Next up was Twitter.  Ugh, Twitter.  I will never, ever, understand the attraction of Twitter.  And now, as I understand it, the maximum length of characters has increased from 140 to 280.  In other words, it’s now twice as bad and twice as annoying as it used to be.  I once heard a baseball broadcast where Vin Scully referred to “tweets” on Twitter as “twits”.  Heehee.  I think Vin was onto something.

Now we have texts.  Ostensibly short messages for quick unimportant communication.  I proudly had never sent a text in my life until about four yeas ago, but they have a place.  Not as lengthy communication, though, and some people treat it as such.  No, just for short stuff that only needs to be said, like “Pick you up in 20 minutes.”  And don’t even get me started on “textspeak”.  Are you educated?  Good, act like it.  “r u 2 l8” is NOT an acceptable abbreviation of “Are you too late?”  I will pretty much shut you off in my mind if you do that… immediately… especially if you do it outside of texts and in public and other forms of writing and social media.  We as a species already suffer from too much dumbing down, don’t accelerate it.

As mentioned before, the advancement of technology keep increasing at a faster and faster pace.  Major communication revolutions that once took decades or even centuries, now happens in just a couple years.  I once thought, “Could we all agree to get together and just ignore the ‘next big thing’?”  That would be lovely.  Won’t happen, but that’d be awesome.  Instead, just slow down.  Let me enjoy what I have for awhile.  Being the first and most innovative does not impress me, it annoys me.  I don’t admire you for making my life more hectic, I curse you.

What’s next?  Going back to grunts with some mental telepathy mixed in?

Disclaimer:  Don’t mistake this as a historically accurate portrayal.  It’s just entertainment.  In other words, I don’t give a rat’s arse if you find something inaccurate herein.  Concept, not history lesson.  Go away!