Jesse and I have been together long enough to have arrived at similar considerations; likes and dislikes, and, importantly, how to manage ourselves when there are differences. One thing we both agree on is one you probably do not like, either.
Lines. Shopping lines. Long lines at store cash registers. Any kind of line which requires us simply to stand and wait. Remember the early iPhone years? Standing in line was a social event which was rewarded with a new iPhone. Those days are gone.
Today, Apple’s stores are successful icons to a traditional method of buying a product. Not long ago we stopped by the Apple Store and inadvertently found a part of the future (no, it wasn’t Amazon or online purchase and wait for delivery). Self checkout.
Brian Merchant thinks Self Checkout is terrible.
For every automated appliance or system that actually makes performing a task easier—dishwashers, ATMs, robotic factory arms, say—there seems to be another one—self-checkout kiosks, automated phone menus, mass email marketing—that actively makes our lives worse.
Jesse and I are, uh, sufficiently mature, that we remember telephones before answering machines, and before voice mail, and how we felt when we couldn’t just call someone on the phone and have them answer. We hated voice mail. We hated dealing with automated phone systems.
Today, we use the same technology ourselves.
Shitty automation usually, but not always, comes about when new user-facing technology is adopted by a company or institution for the ostensible reason of minimizing labor and cutting costs. Nobody likes wading through an interminable phone menu to try to address a suspect charge on a phone bill—literally, everyone would rather speak with a customer service rep. But that’s the system we’re stuck with because a corporation decided that the inconvenience to the user is well worth the savings in labor costs.
Competition might have something to do with that.
OK, back to the Apple Store story. We stopped into an Apple Store to pickup a case for our daughter’s iPhone XR. Easy, right? Grab a color, flag down an Apple Store associate, flex Apple Watch, and the emailed receipt hits Mail before we leave the store.
Except, Apple Stores are busy to busier these days, and we waited in kind of a queue for an Apple Store associate to arrive (others were waiting in front of us; as I said, busy day). After about 10 minutes I decided we’d waited enough so I whipped out my iPhone and browsed through the Apple Store app.
The app recognized me, knew that I was in an Apple Store, and asked if I wanted to check out. Hell, yeah! All I needed to do was scan the iPhone case’s bar code, tap Buy on my iPhone, and the deed was done, sans Apple Store associate.
No. Human. Contact.
Frankly, it was a refreshing adjustment to the routine of waiting in line. These days we do the same at Walmart, Target, and the supermarket down the street. There are times you need human interaction for a purchase, but this kind of automation is an accessible and adaptable experience, and it pleases me that Apple is at the top of the trend.