Friday, October 06, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
I think credit card scanners on gas pumps are one of the greatest timesaving inventions ever invented, as I no longer have to go inside to pay for gas. When real "service stations" went the way of the dinosaur, I became accustomed to inconvenience. At first, I thought "pay at the pump" only worked if you wanted to buy gas on credit. Then I found that bankcards also work and they can zap the money right out of your checking account. I haven't been inside a gas station or convenience store since.
In the interest of saving time, I've learned to use those digital scanners at Wal-Mart and the grocery stores with exactly the right flick of the wrist to scan the card right. The trouble is that every business seems to have a slightly different machine, and it is so easy to accidentally push the wrong button and end up canceling the entire transaction.
I'm sure the day is coming when no one will carry cash at all, just plastic cards. Automation reached a new low, however, when self-service checkout aisles were installed at my local Wal-Mart and Albertson's. With this new "convenience" you get to scan your own groceries instead of standing in a checkout line. Just as I was getting used to shopping carts that were unloaded by the cashier, these idiotic self-service scanners came along to destroy my composure again.
And I've noticed that I'm not the only one who avoids them. And for some unfathomable reason these machines seem to hate me. I scan my item. The computer sits there stupidly doing nothing. Eventually it says, "Scan your first item." But I already did! What to do now, scan it again and get charged twice? "Put the item in the bag," says the machine. But I already have! "Put the item in the bag," it says again. So, I take it out and do it again, just to make a machine happy. "Scan the item before putting it in the bag!" shouts the machine while everyone turns to look at me as if I'm a shoplifter. Then the "cashier" that has been assigned to monitor the six self service registers, slowly ambles over to "help" me, of course with a look on her face that shows clearly how stupid she thinks I am. No wonder these self-service machines are avoided like debris on the Interstate.
I wish someone from the South had put their own mannerisms in the machine. Southern machines would have better manners and speak like it just walked off the set of Gone With the Wind: "Y'all scan yer item now. Take your time, honey, don't get your britches in a wad." This would be so much more customer friendly.
Speaking of talking machines, the ATM machine at the local Bank of America used to have a British accent. I called it the Princess Di ATM. I guess they eventually figured out why everyone was snickering --- It is Bank of AMERICA, isn't it? . They finally got rid of it in favor of one of those touch-the-screen things. It doesn't talk; it only pings. Reminds me of a clown with a horn. I'm afraid if I do something wrong it will squirt me with seltzer. This is obviously another instance when it should speak with a Southern accent. What an ATM machine from the South should say is something like: "Howdy, y'all! Welcome to Bank of America, southern style. Just put your deposit down yonder in the slot, hon. Here's some of your hard-earned money back to spend. Y'all be sure and come see us again. Ya hear?"
Corporations are so out of touch with the real world and real people. They really need to get out from behind those desks and see what real people talk like, don't they? Although now that I think about it, maybe there are some neighborhoods that the machines shouldn't emulate. I would get pissed if I was in the "wrong" neighborhood, and the ATM called me a bitch or a 'ho.