Ever used one of those self service checkouts in the super market?
I'm sure you have. Well for me, until recently, it was a really big deal. The thought of standing and waiting for the cashier at the back of a long queue with a handful of shopping items can be rather irritating. So I thought I'd have a go.
I would say it works for me about 30% of the time before I get the voice... "Unexpected item in bagging area, assistance required"
In my reality I don't require assistance, that's why I've come to use the machine in the first place. I don't want to wait in the queue and I don't want to engage in conversation particularly. So the idea of a SACAT , or semi-attended customer-activated terminal to be correct, is quite appealing.
Because to me, it should just work.
You work left to right and scan the items across the barcode scanner and then place the items in the baggage area. At the end you add a bag, or not, and simply pay.
For me something invariably goes wrong. First at the barcode stage and then in the bagging area and the hovering attendant has to intervene. It's usually around a piece of veg like a carrot that has be looked up in the mass of on-screen vegetables, or a chocolate croissant which is in another touch screen look up table. The piece de la resistance is a bottle of wine. Yes I'm over 21!
So I feel quite humble ( the SACAT was actually invented by David R. Humble) and silly when the supervisor has to step in.
The attendants by the way are brilliant. They just punch in some keys and zap the terminal with a reset zapper and its all back to normal again until the next almond croissant causes mayhem.
It does remind me of a rather simplified version of when the computer goes wrong in 2001 A Space Odyssey. "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that"
Digressing here more than slightly into total irrelevance , the malfunctioning, bad boy computer in the 2001 film was known as a HAL9000. It had its name chosen for the story as being one letter either side of IBM , the original mainframe computers of the day. Amazing hey! And what interesting trivia , I hear you say, shall I quote more?
No, I'll get back to my point, or lack of it. I usually waffle on to the point of boredom. My point being I suppose is technology.
It should just work. And for me it doesn't.
These electronic contraptions should all be easy, you zap the item left to right , the machine works it all out and you just pay.
Devices are another thing. iPhones , iPads and laptops and ridiculous apps for everything , yes everything.
You can't do anything anymore, you need an app to do it for you.
Or when you get the app , you need to update it, or it won't work properly .
Why? It was working perfectly well before.
But then the little men inside the app who have been working tirelessly night and day to update the app to make it work even better for me , then send a message to 'log on' to do an 'update'. Log on to me is putting another log on the fire.
And do an update. Why? You need to re-enter your password. Why? You've forgotten your password. Yes of course I have. Why is all this necessary? Why can't it all be done for me ? Or everything remain exactly as it was before? I really don't need an update.
It is my age I'm sure of it. If I was young I'd just love tinkering with those apps , having millions of them for this and that and adding the right software to make everything work as fast as possible. But I don't like doing it at all, in fact I can't stand it , I just want it to work and not give me any lip, or send me trite messages.
On that note we are actually introducing a new website for our trade customers. This 'should' make their ordering experience easier.
Its a sister site that will sit alongside our retail site and be accessible only by password... oh dear I hear you say. It will give our customers all their trade pricing and access to the products and hopefully speed up the ordering system.
That's the theory anyway . We may however, end up with unexpected items in the baggage area and our customers will start getting almond croissants and carrots with their orders.