Contactless & Not What We Asked For

With our hunter gatherer instincts, we humans like choice and don't like it when we don't get what we asked for. Thanks to chip and pin, cashiers don't give us eye contact anymore and campaigning polititions may be next to not really care.

Not 1982 - Oxtail English Dictionary

Today's New Word: Icontap

Back in the 1980s, the Not The Nine O'clock News team fronted an annual written by Douglas Adams & John Lloyd entitled "Not 1982"; I asked for it for Christmas, was given it and loved reading it from cover to cover over and over. The format was simple, the annual took the form of a calendar, one leaf per day with each leaf having a number of gags per page. Some gags took the form of comments on photos, some were newspaper misprints and some took the form of made-up entries from the fictitious "Oxtail English Dictionary". One of my favourite definitions was "Wembley - that little bit that, no matter how much you shake it, always seems to go down your leg."

We're On The Ode To Wembley

Since 1982 inventing silly new words for those as yet namesless things in life has become a pet pastime of mine and here's my most recent effort: icontap - verb - the distinct lack of communication between cashier and customer, both verbal (smalltalk) and non-verbal (eye contact), caused by the introduction of chip & pin machines.

Firstly, let me make it clear that this isn't a beige rant about the onward march of technology because I think chip & pin is fab. No, it's a comment upon human laziness; you see cashiers no longer have to ask you for money or give you change, all they do is issue directives about card insertion & removal, ask you for your clubcard, ask you how many of your own bags you're using & whether you're collecting school vouchers. A machine could do that and does do it right now. Cashiers don't even make eye contact with you let alone make the effort to interact with you - they simply do the minimum necessary to get by.

Haven't cashiers seen cashierless checkouts? Don't they realise that they're on the way out, that the writing's on the wall and their days as cashiers are numbered? The arrival of contactless checkouts should give cashiers the kick up the harris they need and spur them on to do something that machines can't do - human intercourse. But, alas, no. Cashiers instead have more interaction with their till than their customer, tapping icons and not bothering to make simple eye contact with the customer. They make great Icontap. Don't believe me? Just take note the next time you shop.

Cashierless and Contactless

Retail's going contactless - that's not a good thing as most of us, I'd argue, want the personal touch. Come on cashiers, fight for us! We can order our weekly food shop online but most of us don't as there's something in our hunter gatherer instinct that makes us want to forage and seek out the best. Anyone who's shopped online will tell you how annoying it is when you order one item only for it not to be delivered because the store has run out but has 'thoughtfully' replaced it with another item. "Sorry, we had no jam left so we got you peanut butter instead - hope that's OK?"

The Alternative Vote (AV) Referendum

On the 5th of May we're going to the polls and will be asked to vote for or against The Alternative Vote and I for one will be voting no. I'm all for voting reform but the AV proposal doesn't get my vote. A voting system that asks if you'd like to rank your first choice, second choice and third choice candidate so that a winning candidate can be manufactured from the leftovers is hardly decisive or conclusive. It can only return poor results in marginal seats, delivering the kind of satisfaction you get from online grocery shopping: "Sorry, we didn't pick you a winner so we cobbled one together for you. I know this candidate wasn't most people's first choice but at least they're not the most disliked - hope that's OK?"

We humans are descended from hunter gatherers and we're genetically pre-programmed to seek out and choose what we believe to be the best, not to settle for second best. Voting yes to the AV Referendum risks letting second best candidates into politics. I don't want icontap with cashiers, I want them to fight for my business and I don't want a statistically-more-popular also-ran as my MP, I want them to fight for my single vote not to be content with a share of it.

Paul Hayward avatarPaul Hayward30th November 1999
It is not only the cashier that will determine our future shopping experience. How many of us take the opportunity to chat to the cashier, instead of putting all the onus on them? How many of us buy at the small retailer, rather serve-ourselves supermarkets? How many of us go into the bank to draw cash, rather than use the ATM machine outside in the rain? Who goes to the bookshop and the record store, rather than buy online?
The trend is not new. I suppose buying from a catalogue was when the rot began to set in. But each of us can put more sociability into our lives simply by the small choices we make. Who wants to be first?
Paul Hayward avatarPaul Hayward30th November 1999
The current first-past-the-post voting system we use in this country often results in a representative who was chosen only by the minority. Being given a choice of who I would prefer if my chosen candidate does not have majority support is an attempt to avoid that outcome.
Do we really want to decide our political representation and ultimately our government using a system no more sophisticated that that used to decide a horse race? I don't think so.
Nevertheless, I will agree that the AV system is not the best proportional voting system that could have been offered and, perhaps, ought to be rejected for that reason. We can do better.
Why is there not a third box that says "I want a better voting system, but not AV?" The whole process demonstrates, yet again, the weakness of an oversimplified Yes-No choice.
How do those Wallies in Whitehall continue to get away with it?
Andy avatarAndy6th April 2011
Ahhh, yes. The ol' non-interactivity of Cashier's.
Soon, the only communication will be performed by pressing buttons and appending 'LOL' to the end of any discourse. I'm pretty sure that evolution will step in and shortly provide us with homotextian, like homosapien but with larger, stronger thumbs for texting, maybe a peripheral set of thumbs for texting on the move. I'd suggest anyone reading this finds a copy of the film 'Idiocracy' to view and digest as it shows what happens when society's downward curve in terms of intelligence and social skills reaches an even higher (lower?) peak than we're at today. Quite funny, and worth a watch.

The AV discussion is an interesting one. It's yet another example of diluting anything that comes close to a competition or competitive behaviour. It's the epitome of society's mantra of average being the new 'excellence'. The boy scouts now have to accept girls because of discrimination, school sports are being turned in to games where taking part is all that matters, and education grades are on the rise such that no-one fails and everyone is urged to go to university (and of course all get the same high class honours). All that's happening is it's becoming harder to identify real excellence. Heck, even the football leagues changed from 'When I were a lad' Div1-Div4 to Premiership (another name for 'First'), Championship (yes, yes, they're all champions) and then Division 1 (another reference to 'First') and then lowly Division 2, which is the fourth in this list. I'm pretty sure that the next shake up will see a 'Prime' division being squeezed in so that Division 2 can be got rid of and everyone is in a numero-uno division. I hate football. I hate it more now. Society is becoming a big fudge of averageness where winning is frowned upon and it's 'fairer' to put everyone on a level playing field by forcing top performers to accept drudgery. Averages don't work, and here's why; The average human has less than two arms and two legs.

The great beige apocalypse is coming.
This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays
Steve Whiting avatarSteve Whiting6th April 2011
Erratum: Courtesty of Google I have learned that it wasn't actually a Wembley but a "Wimbledon". Apologies, must spend more time reading Douglas Adams. LOL - a homotextian.
When I'm done you may view my sauce.
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