Sunday, December 11, 2011

The triumph of technology / pantomime season

I’ve mentioned before how it seems we’re all screwed when the power goes off or the containers of cheap batteries fail to arrive from China. All kinds of mechanical things are powered by electricity that shouldn’t be, presumably to feed our obsession for gadgety novelty and to save us a tiny bit of effort (leaving aside the effort of buying the new cheap gizmo when the old one fails to work after 2 minutes). Here’s a related example of the over use of technology and what happens when it goes wrong...

I went to the local Co-op today. I picked up the last of double packs of some bread roll things – 63p. I took then to the till and they scanned the packet. The till came up with an error message. They tried again. And again. They tried another till. Nope, the system wasn’t having it. Barcode not recognised. So they asked me if there was anything else I wanted instead. ‘Not really’, I said, ‘I kind of came in for bread rolls and you have these, so I’d like these please’. Stalemate (No pun intended). They didn’t know what to do. The till wouldn’t let them sell them to me. What were they to do?

At this point I started getting slightly annoyed (in a polite way) and decided to give them some encouragement. ‘Look’ I said, ‘you’ve got some bread there with the price on; I’ve got the money here and this is a shop. Surely between us we can work out a way of doing this?’

In the end there was an obvious solution. Did you spot it? Yes, that’s right, of course you did – to sell me some matches at a discounted price!

The way it works is this – they must have an item to put through the till. And of course they can’t open the till without scanning an item. So, what do you do? Well, you scour the shop looking for an item that costs around the same price as the item you’ve got in your hand that you want to buy. The closest we could find was matches at 70p. So they put the matches through at a discounted price of 63p - they are allowed to discount it would seem - it’s just the selling of bread with the wrong barcode that’s forbidden I guess.

They handed me the bread and I was on finally on my way having completed the complicated transaction of handing over 63p to the people behind the counter of a shop that sells bread costing 63p.

Thanks to the wonderful modern foolproof stock-checking software the Co-op now have an extra multi-pack of matches they shouldn’t have, they’ve apparently lost a 7p discount on the deal – and there’s some missing bread somewhere. That's progress...

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