Saturday, March 18, 2017

There's Another Word For Servicing Yourself

I don't like self-service. It sounds dirty. Plus, I'm no good at it. I learned that years ago, the first time I encountered an unmanned pay station in a parking lot. Against all odds, I managed to navigate the buttons and introduced my credit card to the machine. I even got it back out again. I looked around for a ticket to come chunking out of the box, but there wasn't any. So I wandered off the lot secure in the belief that some collaboration had occurred between my card, the machine, and a global positioning satellite, and they had sent a halo of paidness over my car.

They hadn't. A whisper of a receipt had wafted into a slot at the bottom of the machine, intended for my dashboard, and perhaps the next person had gotten it, or not, but my windshield was wearing a $40 ticket when I came back. I sent a note to the authorities explaining that I had paid and was merely an idiot, but I used complete sentences and spelled everything correctly, and they were not moved. If I'd gone in person, my shortcomings would have been more clear. I would have had my money back in five minutes, plus maybe a little something extra to tide me over until my caretaker showed up.

I guess if I knew how any of it works I would be a little snappier about it. I've tried to buy a light-rail ticket only a few times. They've got machines right on the platform. Two or three trains will go by while I'm prodding the pay box for soft spots. First, of course, I look for the place to put my coins. It's not obvious. I imagine it's about at walker-height. But they'd really prefer you use something else. I find another portal to the ticket-world and start hammering away at buttons, but that's rarely successful either. I always think the machine has just quit on me, but it turns out that somewhere it's waiting for me to tell it "okay" before it will go on. Everything's got self-esteem issues these days.

"Okay." Still no ticket. Then I remember that most people on the train have their tickets jammed right into their phones somehow.  I don't know how they get in there, but I take out my phone and pass it over the machine Ouija-style, up, down, along the sides and underneath, hoping something will go "blip." Instead a paper towel shoots out the bottom and apparently I've also ordered the third season of "House Of Cards." And this, I think darkly, is a machine in my native language in my home town.

I will not do the self-service line at the grocery store. I will not. I'd probably scan my vegetables too hard and get premature salsa. No, sir: I want human hands on my fruit. Someone whose shirt I'm on a first-name basis with.

34 comments:

  1. I have no problem with the self-check at the food store or the big box hardware store. But I was flummoxed the first time I encountered one of those parking meter thingies. Since I hardly ever go places where they are used, I forget how to use them in the interim and am flummoxed yet again each subsequent time I use them. And then there are the ones in parking garages. I got my ticket when I came in okay. But later, when I was leaving, I thought that I paid at the exit. No. That would be too logical. The pay machine was in the lobby where the stairs and elevator were. So I had to double park my car so that I could run back to the lobby and pay the damned thing so that I could get another ticket saying that I had paid to put in the machine at the exit. *Heavy sigh* That little incident just put a stressful spin on what should have been a nice day trip.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're assuming that the purpose of self-service machines is to enable you to obtain services, and that they're failing at it.

    In fact, the purpose of those machines is to enable companies to save money by not hiring people, and they're succeeding at it. Making them comprehensible would probably cost extra and thus defeat the purpose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I clearly do not so assume! I assume the purpose of self-service machines is to make me feel like a doddering old sod. And they're succeeding. But I'm very aware of the other purpose. It's one of the main reasons I always vote against self-service at gas stations (still illegal here). Why put people out of a job just for the pleasure of getting your hands smelly and standing in the rain?

      Delete
  3. A year or so after Walmart came to our region, two self-service counters appeared alongside the regular checkouts. Two years later, they disappeared. The darn things required full-time supervision and let me tell you, that supervisor was run off his/her feet. Every second item that was scanned set off the bells and gongs and necessitated help. Either we're all idiots here or, as Infidel pointed out, they weren't saving money.

    Lots of smiles on your writing, though. Bells and gongs in a different way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh. I know I'd scan my vegetables right into chutney. No thanks. I haven't even tried it. By the way, we don't have nearly the number of Walmarts most places have. The city has actively fought against them!

      Delete
  4. OMG, I HATE when my husband comes home with premature salsa!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the ticket machines at Paddington (London,UK) must have facial recognition built in because after a couple of false starts trying to buy a ticket they clicked and whirred, flashed a "thankyou" and spat my tickets into the tray.But the machines in the supermarket keep saying there is an unexplained item in the bagging area.And the unexplained item (that's me, by the way)has to wait for an apron'd person to come and unlock the machine with some magnetic device and tell me to try again.Those machines NEED facial recognition.Or more paid staff...

    ReplyDelete
  6. All too familiar.
    I sometimes suspect that the self-serve machines hate me. Nearly as much as I do them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm not sure they hate me. I think they think I'm hilarious. They snicker when I walk away.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can do self-service gas - it's basically all we have here; and ATMs - most of them. My biggest issue with the grocery store things is that they don't have a simple provision to cope with the fact that I want to use my own bags - so I don't use them, even if the lines are long and I'm in a hurry - because really, no one should be in THAT much of a hurry. I applaud Whole Foods for not even having that option. And parking lot kiosks are just completely unfathomable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THAT's one of the bad things about self-service gas--once you have it, it's the only choice. They say the disabled will always have the option of full service, but if they do, it costs a whole lot more. (And a whole lot more than it costs here.) I don't know about your bag issue: because I haven't tried grocery self-service! Seems silly though.

      Delete
  9. Jerry loves the self check out at the grocery store. He thinks he's hot stuff as he punches in his alternate ID and doesn't even put his bag down first... I on the other hand can guarantee that within the first few items it will flash..."attendant alerted" and then I fuss like a little old lady and the checker comes and finishes scanning all my groceries and takes my check. I find fussing like a little old lady gets me far... that and a big smile and a thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll bet you anything if I even make a feint in the direction of the machines, sirens will go off.

      Delete
  10. the people who are responsible for instructions, whether at that parking gate, or on the computer, are failing now, and have failed into the distant past. They are not called to account for their incompetence. It could all be clear and easy. I think the reason is that this task is shuffled off to who knows who. And so we have horrible highway signage, instructions at every level.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the things I took pride in as a letter carrier was my clear instructions for substitutes. Some people just don't have the knack, and other people kind of wanted the subs to fail. Not sure what motivates the machine instruction makers.

      Delete
  11. Having once been a checkout chook, self scanners are a snap for me, but even other machines seem to be easy enough, most of ours have clear instructions: insert coins here, insert notes here, insert card here, collect change here, collect ticket here. Sometimes the instructions are in picture form: a picture of coins, banknote or credit card with an arrow towards the slot. Easier for those who don't speak our language.
    I'm astounded at those who travel our buses and constantly insert their tickets three different ways before getting it right. The picture showing how to insert is right there by the machine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are Not Making Me Feel Any Better. Except I enjoy thinking I'm astounding.

      Delete
    2. I use my credit card ALL the time. A few days ago I put it in a machine upside down. Not the first time, either. Some of us just have the knack, I guess!

      Delete
    3. Don't tell River, sssh, but every time I see that picture of how to position the card before you swipe the machine, I have to tilt my head ninety degrees and turn my card around a few times to get it all to line up, and then I'm dizzy.

      Delete
  12. Me, oh my. You've captured the perils of our generation perfectly. Damn those millennials and their tech-savvyness.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am lucky that when I have encountered machines like that, someone always offers to help me. I guess I have that helpless old lady look.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Isn't there medication available to prevent premature salsa?

    ReplyDelete
  15. All I can say is, I can SO identify.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're the old farts looking for the card catalogue.

      Delete
  16. The first time I saw one of those parking machines was in Norway about 4 years ago. My cousin is an engineer with a PHD and she had no trouble. I couldn't even figure out that it had something to do with parking. I will surely get lost in the big city if it's not a sunny day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not much of a traveler and this is one of the reasons.

      Delete
  17. Hubby is just like you when it comes to cash transaction machines. He almost got into a fist fight (really) with the parking attendant when both of his credit cards did not work. I could not have written it with as much humor.

    ReplyDelete