Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Hate Computers

Not the ones I work on ... well, actually I hate those, too.

Mostly it's the ones that have been put in the hands of the system and whose entire purpose is to make our lives more difficult.


I walked out of the supermarket today after waiting in line for ten minutes. The one "working" cashier was trying to scan through a customer who was trying to purchase a supermarket deal, while that customer went back and forth trying to prove that the item was supposed to scan as listed on the sign hanging near the product.

In Israel, to remove anything that was inadvertently scanned in, you have to run a card through the checkout machine, enter a key and an access codes, wait for the management to enter another access code, pull out a form on a clipboard, enter the information, sign it, have the customer sign it, and so on. The scanned item kept entering incorrectly, so it had to be repeatedly canceled.

I wasn't the only one who walked out.

This represents a failure on the part of the checkout person for repeatedly dealing with this one individual while a dozen were queued up, the management for allowing this to continue, the chain for insisting on these dumb practices, and so on.

But the main culprit is whoever insisted on installing this checkout computer. Whose benefit was this for? It certainly doesn't make things quicker or easier for the consumer. The percentage of incorrectly scanned items is far greater than the number of manually entered incorrect items at a local corner store. And at the local corner store, the checker can multi-process. If someone is holding up the line, other people can leave the $1 for their newspaper and walk out in the meantime.

it doesn't help the checker or the management. They have just as much work dealing with this computer and its errors as they would dealing with a manual machine.

It helps only the bigwigs in their ivory towers who treat their staff and customers like moving targets. Computers installed to nail down the masses. So that they can charge more money, make more profit, and sell their customer information.


My new salary is based on my working hours. Guess what tracks my hours at work?

I can work 1/4 hour less on one day and 1/4 hour more on another day and still get paid my full salary. However, I can't work 1/4 less one month and 1/4 more the next or previous month. If I do, I will get docked 1/4 hour salary.

I don't get paid overtime as a computer professional. That doesn't bother me. But to not pay me overtime one month and then charge me for undertime the next month sticks in my gut. And the time clock. Doesn't it make more sense, in a profession like mine, to pay me if I get my job done? I'm not working customer support, where I answer questions between 8 and 6. I'm doing in-house technical writing. I get a project, I do it. It doesn't matter how many hours it takes to do it so long as I get done all of my projects and work satisfactorily.

Do they even know what I'm doing during those hours at work? Or does it just matter that I'm here?

Computers. Brrr... Give me a board game to play with people and keep the computers away from me.



Rick said...

Your issues are with company policies and processes and not with computers. Computers just do what they're programmed to do.

For example, your supermarket example is a manifestation of corporate internal control procedures. Designed to prevent fraud, it seems they overdid it in this case and it's impacting their customers. They need to eliminate some of the controls from the process.

In the other example, you are probably paid on a monthly basis, which explains the monthly "compartmentalizing" of your work hours. Whether or not the number of hours you work is tracked by the company is a management decision, and is not normally a system limitation.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Of course it is a management policy problem. It's just that the larger the company gets, the more the company policy is reflected by what its computers do, and not on serving its customers.

Company policy could be that whenever there is a bottleneck in a checkout line, that the other customers are checked out manually, like they do in a corner store. A large company can't do that, because the computers won't check out at the end of the day. Get rid of the computers and you haven't got this problem. You may have other problems, like inventory control, but you have happier more loyal customers.

Company policy could be to have the management review the hours of their employees and talk to them when the hours are short. Instead the computer system automatically deducts pay based on checked in hours. They don't normally make exceptions because it is too difficult to square away the exceptions with the computer's hour logs which they pass up to some other part of the company. Get rid of the computer (the one that calculates pay) and this is no longer a problem.