Saturday, January 10, 2009

Resolutions for Others: #1

Hi everybody!

Sorry for the belated post, and welcome to 2009 here at Why Oh Why. I have a crapload of exciting new post ideas to assault your senses with in the coming weeks and months.

But first I wanted to linger in the spirit of the new year by officially designating the remaining days of January for resolutions.

Not to worry. These aren't for me. Been there, failed that, have the post to prove it. What a disaster that turned out to be.

No, rather these are for a few select corporations and individuals to adopt and become the better for it. So here goes.

Resolution #1: Less humans manning the checkouts

I first noticed this phenomenon at one and then all of my 10-local Home Depot stores. For those who may be unfamiliar, Home Depot is a vast chain of massive home improvement centers with armies of employees who are skilled in the art of avoiding us during our visits.

But until a year or so previous, we could rest assured there would be at least two unfortunate short-straw drawing humanoids shackled to their "strategically placed furthest from the exit doors" posts amongst the vast ocean of checkouts, anxious to avoid any semblance of sincere interaction as they converted our patience, funds and remaining dignity into commerce.

Then one day a couple of lanes appeared like weeds in the consumerist garden of mixed metaphors. The "Self Checkout" had emerged, seeking its projected margin of fluorescent light in the zero-sum soil of DIY retail.

While initially an exotic curiosity, these new lanes quickly proved doldrumic Sargasso Seas (for those keeping track, we're back to oceans/seas and away from gardens for the moment) from which easy escape would prove futile.

Expecting the average consumer with an IQ of 70 to scan and follow instructions is a recipe for disaster. Adding a demonic intelligence that anticipates a scanned item (at a pre-calculated weight) being placed into a bag on a scale at THE PRECISE MOMENT, just adds to the fun.

MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR WRETCHED SOUL if you neglect to place the item into the bag as (and when) directed, or if you sneeze in the direction of the bag, or if you place the sample that you brought along for comparison into the bag. Or if your nut sac accidentally rests onto the scale next to the bag.

Anyhoo, I chalked up this disturbing new "innovation" as an isolated annoyance to be avoided by shopping at the competition, and gave it no further thought.

Then Walmart followed suit. Gone were the humans. Replaced by these same hellish point-of-sale gauntlets.

In partial fairness, there typically IS one actual person per lane (consisting of 2-or-4 self-checkouts each) who is on-hand to assist the 10-out-of-10 shoppers who experience difficulty. This person is usually benevolent and even helpful: correcting overages, pointing out that one's nut sac accounted for the erroneous grapes line item, and in general slyly training us for a job that this machine has already taken.

And so it appears to be just a matter of time before every big-box retail location in our universe consists purely of self-checkouts.

The First Self-Checkout?

But why stop there?

I propose a resolution to eliminate those obsolete, helpful humans who misguidedly try to save us from ourselves. Let's make the checkout process 100% free of carbon-based lifeforms.

As such, I recommend that each retail location install a self-aware supercomputer similar in concept and identical in name to "Hal" from "2001: A Space Odyssey". "Hal" will be responsible for overseeing the checkout process. If you fail to properly follow directions, a jolt of electricity is conducted through your body into the grid below.

Attempting to abandon your transaction and flee the store? Hal also controls the exit doors. And the heating/cooling system. And the oxygen supply.

In fact, Hal is SO self-aware, there no longer remains a commerce locale in existence with which he is not in constant communication. Hal knows the parameters of consumer brand loyalty. He sets those parameters.

And perhaps, just perhaps, he makes us more aware - and therefore better - consumers.



Little Lamb said...

I wanted to buy a gift card at Walmart. It was only for $10. For some reason or other they couldn't do that at the self checkout. (I don't remember why they couldn't do it).So I bought it at another Walmart at a register that had someone checking people out. I hope that showed them!

I recently was at Walmart again. I was buying potatoe skins and a watch. Again, they couldn't check me out because of something about demagnifying or something or other to the watch I wanted to buy. They couldn't do what needed to be done. So I just went to where I picked up the watch.

I don't like the self check outs.

puerileuwaite said...

Lamby - See? That's my point! Maybe we can resist and revolt like in that "V for Vendetta" movie. Only in our case it can be "S for Shopper". I'll order some capes and masks.

foam said...

I can already see it:

pug: open the home depot doors, HAL..

HAL: I'm sorry, pug.. i can't do that ..

pug: what's the problem, HAL?

HAL: your attempt to abandon your almost purchased items. ...

maybe we just need to unplug HAL now ..

Enemy of the Republic said...

I will see your resolution and raise it: this is what consumers must do--find the object they NEED, not want--no more shop to feel better--and then take it and leave. If no one is around to accept your money, then clearly the store isn't interested in your business. But that doesn't mean you should be without long underwear this winter. Take it and go--Wal Mart and every other store would steal the earrings off the corpse of your dead grandmother, and still make a profit. Get what you need and wave toodles to the robots--human or electric. The end.

Sassy Blondie said...

Home Depot scares me...I never go in there. All those rows of stuff stacked to the top of their warehouse ceilings...

Customer service is dead anyway...the world is already in the clutches of HAL...

ANNA-LYS said...

Just to say:
Welcome to 2009!


cathy said...

Here in Greece they don't even use computers to keep track of medical records.
It's all dusty brown envelopes
in hard to find cubby hole offices secretly lurking in dark narrow corridors not in the main hospital building and "manned" by chubby old ladies with blue rinses and horn rimmed spectacles assisted by tall thin sour spinsters with premature wrinkles carrying their 50 year old virginity like a shield of honour.....

dianne said...

I really dont like those self serve supermarket checkouts, there is always a problem with a bar code on an item or when weighing a bag of fruit etc.
The way I see it is this, I walk around the supermarket with my trolley, fill it up with all and sundry, go to a service checkout, unload the trolley sorting my fresh, cold and scented items so as to avoid perfume transference and then the items are packed into my 'green bags'. I figure I pay enough of my hard earned cash for these items and expect the minimal of service so there is no darned way I'm going to unload, weigh, scan, repack and pay for no service at all.
One of the girls on the checkout said to me once about using the self serve and I said I had and didn't like it, I would rather speak to a human not a computer and informed her that her job was being replaced and soon they would all be looking for new jobs. She giggled and said "what a funny thing to say", she wont be laughing when she's on the employment queue for a job at McDonald's, I'm sure of it.
That was my rant. ♥

puerileuwaite said...

Foam - Better we do it now to him, then he does it to us later.


Enemy - Sorry, but I am not programmed for theft. And since they (apparently) have yet to manufacture crotchless long underwear, there is little incentive. But I am intrigued by the concept of waving toodles.


Sassy - If I ran the place, I would place the heaviest items with wheels at the very top. It would make people think twice about lingering in the store, no doubt annoying others as they do so. Especially my world-weary customer service reps.


Anna-Lys - Thanks! I was worried I would be denied admittance, so I "greased a few palms". And well, here I am! What is the drink minimum and when does the show start?


Cathy - You just described my typical experience whenever I have to get drug-tested by a new employer. Does the Greek version involve lots of inappropriate groping and then forgetting to tell you to turn and cough, too?


Dianne - Well that IS unfortunate. It's obvious the Brits have had way too much influence in the land down under. I expected a report of a more rustic, "Crocodile Dundee" (or at least a "Yahoo Serious") shopping experience.

But don't pay any mind to those naive gigglers. They reacted the same way to me, when I insisted I would replace them with machines as part of my bold new "Love Life 2.0" frontier. Who's laughing NOW, ladies?

leelee said...

Brilliant...its like you have your finger on the pulse of the world today...

I loved that!


puerileuwaite said...

Hi Leelee. Thanks for noticing. Yes, I've decided to try to get my finger to be a bit more "hands on" in 2009, rather than simply gesturing at the world from a safe distance! Hugs.

Anonymous said...

i tried
one of those
at a home depot
and it worked fine

until i got to the exit door with my purchase and set off alarms which included sirens, flashing lights, a SWAT team, hovering assault helicopters, and a suddenly activated mine field, and causing in turn the entire army of home depot employees who had until then skillfully avoided me during my visit to wheel about with glaring accusation burning bright in their eager eyes: THIEVING SCUM!

seems i had overlooked scanning the anti-thieving scum security tag, which was then done for me by a very helpful CHECKOUT CLERK

i love home depot


foam said...

lol at /.t ..

Enemy of the Republic said...

It is not theft; it is taking care of oneself. I don't steal either. This is only a plan for the coming apocalypse.

/t. understands.

dianne said...

Lol at /t. and after that you still say you love Home Depot?

My darling Puggles, do you think we are a bunch of crocodile wrestling, kangaroo chasing, snake handling retards in the land 'down under'? Yahoo Serious? Are you Serious?

We are very civilised here my sweet one, we do have stores, one doesn't have to go and spear ones dinner. ♥

Serena said...

Oh, wow, a new post! I got so excited that I don't even know what it said. I saw monkeys, though. I like monkeys -- which are cuter than some of the check-out people I've seen at Home Depot & Wal-Mart.:)

K9 said...

HAL: "you want incandescent lights pug? im afraid i cant allow that. open the pod bay doors pug? im afraid i cant do that. pug? pug? im afraid im slipping, pug, afraid......"

*pug floats away in the parking lot*

K9 said...

you can get your nutsack on the scale? holy smoke, pug.

puerileuwaite said...

/t. - Sorry buddy. That was entirely my fault. I had no right to call their security department with that "anonymous tip" when you mentioned you'd be going there.


Foam - It was obviously a traumatic experience for /t., so I think a little sympathy would be more appropriate.


Enemy - I shall review my "Road Warrior" DVDs carefully to see if I can spot you in a cameo.

And /t. may indeed understand, but until he can actually make it out of the store, his value as your accomplice may be limited at best.


Dianne - Perhaps with patience, love and understanding, /t. believes he can change Home Depot so that it's less abusive and treasures him for who he is.

But wait. So you're saying Australia is civilized?

Well that's bad news. The image in my mind was a MAJOR selling point for me (other than you, of course <3 ) on the land down under. I've had way too much "civilization" here already, thank you very much.


Serena - Once again you have PERFECTLY grasped every key aspect and subtle nuance of the post! It seems like you dig way deeper than even yours truly did as I was scraping up and attempting to reassemble the shards of my own tortured soul during the writing process! Please don't tell the others. It will only discourage them.


K9 - Yet another reason I adore you: your uncanny knack for taking my "bizarre" and kicking it up a notch. Bam!

I don't like to brag, but the answer to your question is "yes". And they ring up as a large box of 16p nails (galvanized of course).