Small Victories

It sometimes seems as if the embuggerisation of modern life – the process by which large corporations gradually shave away at the corners of customer service in defence of their bottom line by making their customers do the work that they used to pay staff to do while simultaneously trying to squeeze as much cash out of them as they can – is unstoppable and unrelenting. But sometimes, just sometimes, the customers fight back. And sometimes, just sometimes, they actually win. And it seems that one such tiny victory has been acheived in Bigtown, at least for now.

Normally I avoid buying my paper in WH Smith ever since they abandoned the honesty box system in favour of making you stand in an enormous queue made only longer by the need for the poor cashiers to upsell something to every single customer (would you like a bottle of water for 50p with your paper? Unfeasibly large bar of chocolate? Or how about a useless voucher that gives you 50% off everything except newspapers, books, magazines, unfeasibly large bars of chocolate and indeed everything else we actually stock in this shop?). Then, just before Christmas they brought in self-service tills, an act of genius in a shop that sells things like newspapers (which are often bought with vouchers which are enormously fiddly to use on those machines) and tobacco – which now has to be kept under the counter.

Naturally, the good people of Bigtown studiously ignored the self-service tills, as is only right and proper, and simply queued up for the remaining tills, and when I went in this morning it seems as if the customers might have won. Bigtown WH Smith still has the loathed self-service tills in place, but when I went in this morning I found they had simply turned one of them round and put a cashier behind it to ‘help’ the customers by basically scanning everything through herself, taking their money, dealing with the vouchers and issuing receipts. Presumably as far as head office is concerned, the self-service tills are doing wonderfully well – and as far as Bigtown is concerned, things are back to normal. Indeed, we’re rather better off than before, because the machines aren’t expected to do any upselling, so we no longer have to fend off huge bars of chocolate when we’re in a hurry for our change, although we do still get the useless vouchers. All they have to do now is bring back the honesty box system and my life will be complete, although I suspect what will actually happen is that head office will discover the ruse and crack down on it, and we – customers and staff – will be re-educated to use the self-service tills if it kills us all. It is, after all, the modern way.

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6 Responses to Small Victories

  1. Why does WH Smith still exit? It is one of the most depressing chains on the high street, I feel tempted to take in a pot of emulsion paint and a brush and give the place a freshen up. Yay for our Asian run paper shop, that delivers on all but the most icy of days

  2. disgruntled says:

    I know. Obviously my first loyalty is to the papershop but Papershop Village is in the opposite direction to Bigtown, and I only remember what a giant pain in the neck WH Smiths is when I’ve already picked up my paper and seen the queue

  3. Andy in Germany says:

    As far as I know the menace of self-service tills hasn’t reached us in Germany yet. You’d think that places like Lidl would have gone for them, but I suspect it is because they’ve found they get more traffic through the tills per hour with a cashier throwing your groceries at you, than they’d have with customers pressing random buttos on the self-service tills.

  4. Autolycus says:

    How can a bar of chocolate be unfeasibly large?

  5. disgruntled says:

    Andy – clearly the Germans have more sense
    Autolycus – if it’s Dairy Milk.

  6. […] It’s January, people, January. How am I ever going to get my garlic to vernalise if this goes on? *It only occurs to me now that this might be part of desperate measures on the part of WH Smith’s to persuade their customers to use the self-service tills […]

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