The Human Connection

The Human Connection

The human connection beats self-checkout when it comes to understanding.

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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