Down For the Count

Progressive Enterprises, please, learn to use your $30-million computer network for people, not for ‘company policy.’
Oh, sorry, that should be spelt Company Policy, because we are talking about religion here, most great and very grand religion – like the 90-foot image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon set up, before which you must all “prostrate yourselves… and worship… when you hear the sound of horn, pipe, zither, triangle, dulcimer, music, and singing of every kind”. That sort of hubristic nonsense never does any good, as Nebuchadnezzar found out – he went mad and was put out to eat grass with the cattle till he learnt sense. But, as someone said, those who cannot learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.
I ran out of pre-printed cheques, so the ‘sweet little teller at the National Bank’ (to quote the ancient TV commercial), laboriously wrote out temporary booklet of 10 for me to use until preprinted one came. few days later I bought few items at one of PEL’s Countdown supermarkets, wrote out cheque, and handed it and my Countdown ID card to the checkout operator. The ID card, of course, had that bank account encoded on its magnetic stripe.
“Sorry,” said the supermarket, in the escalating persons of the checkout operator, the checkout supervisor, the grocery manager, the store manager, and, in answer to telephone call from the grocery manager, Countdown’s head offal, “we do not accept temporary cheques”.
“But,” I pointed out, “if you enter the codeline off the cheque written out by the bank, as you must whenever your MICR reader cannot read preprinted cheque, you will find that it is the one recorded on your ID card – and the signature on the ID card matches the one on the cheque.”
“No, it is company policy.”
The god had spoken. Bow. Press face abjectly into floor.
PEL, it seems, thinks little time-wasting psychological abuse meted out at the checkout never hurts customer, or custom.
Woolworths, in contrast, swung fast, unobtrusive system into action when I presented cheque at one of its supermarkets for the first time. That was procedure for the real world, the one with real people in it, the sort who have infinite variations on how they do things.
If you have computer system and have not built into it the way real human beings live, you have put your machines and your sacred, lazy “policy” ahead of people, and you have failed to be fully human. You have also failed to reach the minimum standard set by national and international democratic law, whose most fundamental principle is “recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person”.
That recognition is also the most fundamental of human rights, and those who fail to give it to their customers should not be surprised if their wunnerful empire slowly but surely comes unglued.
In other words, look after your customers as human beings or sooner or later they will look elsewhere. If you look after the people, the bottom line looks after itself; look after something else, and sooner or later the people will go somewhere else. For if you are not adhering to the fundamental principles of healthy society, sooner or later its immune system will identify you as disease and get rid of you.

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

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