Self service is a wonderful thing. For most of us the appeal of internet shopping lies not just in the convenience of being able to order goods and services at any time of the day or night but also the sense of autonomy it gives us. Whatever we happen to be looking for, we can find it ourselves (and at the best possible price) with no need to ask for advice from sales assistants or call centre operatives.
To put it another way, we – as consumers – are firmly in the driving seat.
But sometimes being in the driving seat doesn’t feel that great. Witness the automated checkouts that are now part and parcel of the supermarket experience. In theory, these have freed shoppers from the tedium of long queues at the conventional checkouts. Instead, those with modest baskets simply scan their goods through and pay by card or cash in a seamless process. No need to wait until a cashier comes free. It’s the bricks and mortar store’s answer to internet shopping.
But it doesn’t always run smoothly. Faced by vegetables that have to be looked up and weighed rather than scanned and messages declaring the presence of an “unexpected item in the bagging area,” newcomers to the world of automated checkouts often struggle to complete their purchases. Cue confused expressions as they look around for assistance. At this point they are no longer in the driving seat. Continue reading