The Human Connection

The Human Connection

The human connection beats self-checkout when it comes to understanding and helping in forgetful moments.

A couple months ago, I wrote about experiencing self-checkouts for the first time in an auto parts store. Okay, I’ll be honest, it gave me the opportunity to poke fun and complain about self-checkouts in general, and who doesn’t like to do that?

I liked the idea of it in this case, however, because it could save me a lot of time since I’m often just going in to grab something off the shelf. So, I was torn between the advantages of a self-checkout and my concern of people losing jobs to machines.

Then, I had another experience at an auto parts store that was a reminder of just how important people are in the equation. It was business as normal, me just picking up a round of parts for the current project I was working on. I also needed to get a bag of floor dry, which I somehow didn’t see stacked by the door, so I asked the counterperson for it.

They were able to ring up the floor dry on the bill without me lugging it over to the counter, that in itself a benefit of an actual person. I grabbed my stuff and left, and it wasn’t until I was halfway home that I discovered I had forgotten the bag of floor dry. I turned around and headed back to the store.

When I pulled up, the gentleman who had helped me was working on the lot, putting a battery in someone’s car. I walked over to him and told him what had happened. He smiled and laughed and that was it. I walked in the front door, grabbed the bag of floor dry and went about my business.

How would that have gone had there not been a person there? It’s not the first time that’s happened to me, and I’m sure many other people, too. How many times have you walked out of a grocery store and forgotten one of the bags? Nobody warns you or tells you, and you don’t figure it out until you’re home putting away the groceries. And, of course, it’s always the bag with the ice cream. Why couldn’t it have been the broccoli?

Self-checkouts are designed with safeguards to prevent theft and they remind you to check under your cart. Cameras, sensors and detectors at the door keep people from making off with more valuable merchandise, but nothing is designed to tell you when you forget something.

I’ve never had a problem at any store when this happens. Real people understand it. What’s a computer going to do? There’s no option for that. You can’t just walk in and take what you forgot. Imagine the future. The scanners at the door will pick up your driver’s license, then even if you make it out of the store without an alarm going off, some advanced lot-scanning camera from across the road will detect that your car sits twenty-thousandths of an inch lower, assume you stole something, and the police will be waiting for you when you get home.

In the meantime, a local bank will get robbed and somehow the 12 different cameras inside the branch will get nothing more than a grainy fuzzball image of the perpetrator. Go figure. The human connection. I know what I prefer. TS

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Don’t Forget the Basics

Every now and then, I get tunnel vision during diagnostics, and forget to think about the big picture.

2000 Jeep Cherokee

We’ve all made the mistake, at least I know I have. Every now and then, I get tunnel vision during diagnostics, and forget to think about the big picture. And this last episode even violated my cardinal rule: don’t leave a malfunction indicator light (MIL) unresolved.I always recommend fixing every problem that causes the MIL to illuminate. I hear the excuses all the time about why people would rather live with the light, but I always tell them, even if the immediate cause of the light doesn’t affect the dependability of the vehicle, if something else happens that does, you’ll have no idea of knowing. That’s the beauty of computer controls. You always know when something is going on.Just a couple weeks ago, a friend called me because they were having trouble with the transmission in their 2000 Jeep Cherokee. It was shifting erratically, and it occurred after driving on a very hot day. The fluid was dark in color, and when it last had been changed was unknown.This particular vehicle was located in Arizona, so phone-only troubleshooting was the only option. I decided to focus on the condition of the fluid and the hot climate. We’ve all faced neglected and burnt transmission fluid and had to make the decision of change or not to change. Some say change it, but some say that may cause the transmission to completely fail, so leave it alone.I decided to roll the dice, and, in this situation, I decided the fluid should be changed. Then, knowing the climate, I decided to dig in and focus on the other factors that could affect the fluid. After asking questions, I learned that the cooler in the radiator had been bypassed and the only cooler was a small aftermarket unit. I also discussed the fact that if the fan clutch was not operating properly, it could cause a problem with cooling as well.Taking my advice, the Jeep’s owner changed the fluid and filter, installed a new radiator, reconnected the transmission lines to it, installed a new aftermarket cooler in line and installed a newfan clutch.After performing all the work, the transmission continued with its erratic shifting. No better, no worse. The next day, unexpectedly, the engine stalled when coming to a stop. This had never happened before. The Jeep’s owner decided to check for trouble codes and found a code for the throttle position sensor (TPS).He didn’t think about looking for codes before because the MIL was already illuminated for another problem. He was “living with the light.” After replacing the TPS, not only did the engine run better than it had in a while, but the transmission shifted perfectly and has ever since.Of course, it all makes perfect sense. I wasn’t there to see the MIL, I didn’t think to ask if it was illuminated, and on or not, I didn’t even think to check for codes. My tunnel vision in this case only made me think about the transmission fluid, not the information the transmission needs to know in order to shift properly. Luckily, the outcome was good and the owner is happy knowing the transmission is serviced and the fluid is being properly cooled. TS

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