BOUQUET: VERY KNOWING TAXIS

When you call taxi you expect to be
asked where you are and where you are going. It is an impressive use of modern technology to have the dispatcher, as with North Shore Taxis, greet you with your whereabouts and ask only for your destination.
That is achieved by putting Telecom’s Caller ID facility to friendly use. North Shore Taxis’ computer system looks at the originating number of each call, and if it is in its database it displays the corresponding address on the dispatcher’s screen. That means fewer occasions when time is wasted going to the wrong address because of poor pronunciation or confusion between similar street names. Errors are further reduced, as is RT traffic, if the driver has digital display, because the same data can be flashed to the cab.
It also means drivers are safer. The dispatchers know where they are headed.
An increasing number of drivers have gone even further and had GPS hooked into the system. That means their whereabouts can be known every second, not just when they pick up the passenger, by being displayed on dispatchers’ on-screen maps.

Brickbat: Warehouse/Equifax -Everyone Got Bargain?
There are many “systems” (so-called by their creators and adherents) that are not systems. They are inhuman, bureaucratic, or stupid – or all three (which takes very special creative talent). And there are too many computer systems that are just manual systems on computer screens – the Emperor’s clothes of IT. Just because you buy hardware and software does not mean you have computer system, just as stringing together English words does not mean you have English – which is why we are now constantly assaulted by illiterate, careless nonsense.
So it should have been no surprise to find myself assaulted by system that uses computer but is not system, computer or otherwise, worthy of the name.
I needed cheap mitre-box for small carpentry task. The Warehouse had one for $39.99. It looked adequate. I added two more items, making total of $80.21, and headed for the checkout with cheque poised.
Cheques are part of New Zealand life, but because 1% are rubber it is reasonable for merchants to protect themselves by asking for ID. Many also have insurance with companies that specialise in guaranteeing cheques.
The Warehouse has such insurance with company called Equifax. But when I wrote out my paltry little cheque and handed it to the checkout operator, with my driver’s licence and credit card as ID, the Warehouse/Equifax “system” went berserk.
The checkout operator saw horrid code on her screen; she called her supervisor; the supervisor took my cheque and went to the phone, then came back to me, waving my cheque, and asked me to come to the phone – all in front of queues of fascinated people.
I was astounded to find myself being asked by some unknown girl for personal information, followed by demand for authority to call my bank. It was no business of hers, whoever she was, but I was heavily in the black at the time. My reaction was to tell them point-blank that I had never in my life had cheque questioned, nor had I ever been so humiliated in shop. I took my business elsewhere.
Subsequent investigation showed that the Warehouse/Equifax “system” cannot help but subject randomly-selected customers to that sort of treatment. It is the logical consequence of the “system”, because when Equifax is asked to guarantee cheque it says yea or nay not on real information about the customer or his account, nor on trustworthy and comprehensive database, but only on information it has gathered by chance – ie what happened to other cheques from that customer that happened to be referred to it. The Warehouse compounds matters by setting low trigger (randomly, as low as $10), and by reacting with decided unfriendliness.
The “computer” said jump. The Warehouse staff jumped. It looked very efficient and modern and computerised and wunnerful. But behind the scenes there was nothing. Equifax had no data on me, useful or otherwise, even though it has been going 13 years and I write hundreds of cheques every year. To it I was newbie, and therefore suspicious. In law I am innocent till proven guilty, but to Equifax and The Warehouse I was guilty till I had proven myself innocent. Meanwhile I was the checkout sideshow.
The Warehouse gave lukewarm apology for the incident, but neither it nor Equifax accepted that it was the logical outcome of their “system”. The Warehouse said it had instructed staff to use their discretion better in future. So Head Offal was right; it was the troops who goofed.

Nobilangelo Ceramalus: Writer, commentator, journalist, desktop publisher, graphics-designer, illustrator, webmaster, photographer.

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