Editorial: Missing The Personal Touch In Stores

  You see them wherever you go these days!

  At first, they started showing up at grocery stores, then convenience stores. They popped up without notice at many of our leading fast food chains and even made it to the local branches of our library systems.

  They are said to make life easier, faster and we’re assured that they will not cause a decline in staff at these respective establishments. Some question the validity of that claim.

  So, who… or rather what is seemingly everywhere and to a small degree changing our lives?

  Kiosks! You can use them to order your sandwich, pay for your gallon of milk, check out your book and order your crunch wrap breakfast meal.

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  You don’t have to interact as much (or at all) with staff if you want to make a deposit at your bank because newer ATMs are programed with that function. That is an extension of the kiosk concept.

  I am not sure yet how I feel about this new technological development. While I’m clearly not opposed to new tech making my life simple, there is something about how it is being presented that just seems a bit unnerving.

  I guess it’s seeing the lack of cashiers in a favorite convenience store when I want to check out my drink and see five self-checkout areas and one manned station.

  Our library system is rolling out more self-check out machines and it was amusing to watch young people go up to the brightly lit machines thinking they were video games or a young mom who wanted to make a copy of something believing it a copy machine.

  I thought it odd, months ago, when I stood a tad too long looking at a newly installed mechanical order system at a local McDonald’s and as I turned around to walk to the manned counter, have the woman behind it walk over to me and walk me through the new device and show me how easy it was. Granted this was at a time when I was the only customer in the lobby.

  Another observation was at my local grocery store and watching the cashiers observe the installation of a batch of new self-check machines as if they were witnessing their replacements. Perhaps they were?

  It isn’t just the kiosk devices but manned staff with hand held devices that can check your small order as you stand in line. That is convenient and that still has a personal touch.

  Have you ever gone to a bank and approached the teller area holding your deposit slip and other paperwork only to be told, “Sir, are you aware you can now do this at the ATM?” While it was said in pleasant manner my brain translated that into, “Sir, this is much a minor task we’d rather you not bother us with it anymore and do it yourself.”

  We live in a time when a few fleeting words between the shopper and cashier may become a thing of the past before long. Some of us feel an unnatural intimidation of going up to those self-check machines despite having a decent knowledge of navigating around our computers and phone devices. There is just something about those kiosks with their buttons, scanners, lights and various slots that just seem out of place, as if they are armed with lasers and could activate them if we do the wrong thing.

  Perhaps if, or rather, when they start to talk (and you know that eventually they will) it won’t seem so bad. When we start to get illuminated digital facial features, we’ll forget that it’s just a machine and we’ll fool ourselves into thinking it’s the friendly cashier who we used to joke with online. Whether you use them or not, they are part of our landscape and I guess it’s all in the name of progress.

Bob Vosseller
Assistant Editor