The Problem With Talking Computers

Talking computers have been around for years in the form of automated telephone systems. They have been confusing people with their endless options after options, and even card payment systems. It used to be the case that they would give you very formal responses, “I’m sorry, your input has not been recognised” but more recently companies have attempted to make their systems more ‘friendly’ and ‘human’. This has created such messages as “We didn’t quite catch that” and “We didn’t get that”. I find these messages even more annoying, you clearly did get it otherwise you wouldn’t have known you had to reply. Stop trying to be friendly and just tell me there was a problem you irritating shit. At least they have moved away from telling the caller that they have done something wrong when nine times out of ten they had not, that was just plain rude.

But perhaps the newest form of annoying computer is the self service supermarket till. “Have you scanned or swiped your nectar card?” You know I bloody haven’t so why ask that! “Please place the item in the bagging area” IT IS!!!! And then the thing that makes me physically shout back at the rude little bastards, “Please take your items from the bagging area”. Hearing this repeatedly bellowed out at me whilst I’m frantically trying to shove my receipt and change back into my wallet makes me want to go on a murderous rampage, burning all the sainsburys supermarkets to the ground in a 50 mile radius. If a real person behaved like these belligerent excuses for tills, they most certainly would have received a wet fish slapped across their antagonistic faces.

Now you may be saying just don’t use those tills, but sometimes when I’m tired / hungover / stressed I’m really not in the mood to have to make small talk with a checkout person. Oh, and I’m not singling out sainsburys here, they just happen to be the only supermarket in walking distance and therefore my shop of ‘choice’.

So the problem here seems to be that computers are stupid. Or at least only as stupid as the people that program them. It’s not that talking computers are a bad idea, it’s just that the way they are implemented at the moment seems to get on peoples nerves. And perhaps part of the problem is also that people don’t like to be told what to do, especially by an annoying repetitive emotionless lump of metal. Sometimes people are just better at things. People can see that you are trying to put things in your wallet and will not demand that you take your things and leave immediately. People can see that you have done the correct thing, and it is in fact there system that has gone wrong. People have emotion and can relate to each other. Computers cannot.

That was my rant about talking computers. Hopefully the future will bring better computers that are not so rude or demanding, and with any luck will be a help rather than a hindrance.