Welcome to Wal-Mart, How Can I Sort of Help You?

I’ve been meaning to write about this since, hmm, when? When I got back from guide dog school? Or was it before that? I know I was with mom getting stuff at Wal-Mart. Anyway, here goes. We’re getting stuff at Wal-Mart, like I said, and mom decides to go through one of these funky-doodle self-checkout units. They have the basket and you scan the stuff through yourself, pay, and out ya go, without bothering a single cashier. I never cared about these things much, I actually found them rather creepy, since they could potentially end up everywhere, cutting cashiers’ jobs, and I really don’t feel like dealing with more automation.

But I was watching mom putting stuff through, and I got a little bit intrigued. First, it spoke! This fascinated me. I wondered how much thought Wal-Mart had put into these things, and wondered if they were overdue for a thank you letter, just like TD Canada Trust for their talking bank machines. I watched, paying close attention to the machine. It said when you were supposed to place your items in the basket, it spoke the price of each item, it told you if an item didn’t scan, I was impressed! That is, until it was time to pay! Then, it said, “Please complete the pin process.” and stopped speaking. Hey chief, where’d your helpful voice go? This is the most important part of the process! It wouldn’t have to speak the pin number, but it could have spoken everything else!

My poor mom became quickly mortified as I started complaining about the machine. I started asking her what sense it made to make a machine talk half the process. The voice mustn’t have been there for accessibility reasons. It must have been there to create the illusion of dealing with a real cashier. Well, if you want to deal with a real live human being, just go over there, there are several real cashiers ready to serve you, and probably happier that you’re standing at their till than using a machine. Ug it makes my head spin.

I really shouldn’t complain, I probably wouldn’t be able to use the thing anyway, and wouldn’t necessarily want to, but the idea of giving something a voice just for decoration bugs me. Maybe it’s because people will look at that and say, “Look at Wal-Mart! They’re taking leaps so the blind can use these machines!” when that isn’t even on Wal-mart’s mind. Plus, I just like to point out when things don’t make sense, and this one definitely doesn’t make sense to me.

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