Jim Furlong: The New Technology 2.0

Let me relate what I think is an important  story about my “Saul on the road to Damascus” conversion moment on matters technological. Like yourself, I had concerns about techno advances in our society and the fact that it is costing  jobs. That was until last week. 

Circumstances put me in a local bookstore mid-morning on a weekday. The store’s name isn’t important but there are only a few large bookstores in the St. John’s metro area, and this was one. 

‘Point of purchase’

The book I wanted was the easy part. The store is well set up and I found it in under five minutes. Paying for that book was a different matter. There was only one checkout open because it was mid-morning but there was a twelve-person  line of people trying to get to “point of purchase.” Between ten and fifteen minutes later I paid for the book. I didn’t want a bag. I didn’t want to join any club or donate to anything. Let me out of here! That was it. Five minutes to find the book; Much longer to pay for it. 

My next stop that morning was a big box store. I needed one more set of  Christmas lights. I knew where they were, so I got them and walked up to a bank of automatic checkout machines. (also known as SACATS: semi-attended customer-activated terminals.) There were eight of those machines. ALL of them; all open for business. 

None were on break or asking any of the other machines when they were going on break. Nor were they talking with customers about wanting a receipt; when the rain was going to stop; or if there was going to be snow for Christmas. The machines asked me nothing. I pushed a few buttons and SHAZAM, I owned a bag of  exterior  lights and a box of chocolate covered cherries that had caught my eye along the way.  A Christmas miracle.

‘The old ways’

You know I used to be something of a Luddite. They were an organization of English textile workers back in the 19th century. Some of the Luddites destroyed  machinery as a form of protest. They were against technology. The group was protesting the use of machinery to get around “the old ways.” So it is today, even among my friends, I hear whisperings about refusing to use the new automatic checkouts that are spreading like wildfire across the world. 

Well count me out of the protest. I have learned “the new ways.” I never have cash. I pump my own gas and now I smile at the automatic checkout herd waiting for me at the front of the store. 

As an aside here and a concluding thought, after the machine had finished my transaction a lovely female machine voice asked me to remove my credit card. Then  it (or she) thanked me for shopping at their store. In a thoughtless moment I said, “You’re welcome.” Then I went home.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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