Removing the Human Element From Business Transactions

Prairie Gleanings

Despite computers' usefulness, they have yet to eradicate the human element in business dealings.

Published on: April 15, 2013

Computers: love em, hate em … eh?

Regardless of how you feel, they’re part of everyday life…for the most part. By in large, when folks are conducting a business transaction in person, they still prefer a human cashier.

Case in point, the automated cashier lines at grocery stores, lumber yards and the post office are typically ignored by the masses. It’s quite the oddity in a nation where one of the largest retailers (Amazon) doesn’t even have a physical store.

So, why do consumers flock to the express line with a human cashier and ignore the robotic money taker? It’s fairly simple. The automated cashiers don’t work well.

Both the Fairview Heights and OFallon post offices get quite busy. Best time to go is right before they open and use the automated kiosk.
Both the Fairview Heights and O'Fallon post offices get quite busy. Best time to go is right before they open and use the automated kiosk.

The pressure sensitive bagging area causes too many hang ups. Good luck checking yourself out at Lowe’s or Menards with a 10-foot board.

Yet, there’s one robo-cashier that is top notch in my opinion. It’s the automated machine at U.S. Post Office locations. It’s terrific. In my completely subjective, non-scientific experience, I’d wager my mailing success rate has been around 95% with these things. It's a chance I'm willing to take when the wait is 10-plus minutes.

The best part: hardly anyone uses them! USPS hasn’t exactly been a shining star in the press as of late. But, kudos to them for getting the automated experience right. I can be in and out of a post office branch much faster than any UPS or FedEx location. All because of the robo-mailman. (Granted, I'm mailing a couple items once a week. Nowhere near typical small-business volume.)

I find USPS mail kiosk to be the most efficient for my shipping needs. Kudos to USPS for getting it right.
I find USPS' mail kiosk to be the most efficient for my shipping needs. Kudos to USPS for getting it right.

These robo-cashiers are just another instance of computers cutting the “fat” out of ordinary business transactions. As many business writers have noted, the “fat” is the human element. It’s the obligatory chat about the weather with clients.

Despite their best efforts, the human element remains. And, in some instances, it triumphs over the mechanized alternative.

I’ve noticed many of these robo-cashier clusters now have a station for a human attendant. It seems they were so unreliable, humans are frequently needed to sort out the “please place item in the bagging area” confusion. Or perhaps loss prevention was convinced robo-cashiers were responsible for an increase in theft. Either way, one human can typically babysit about four robo-cashiers.

It seems a certain amount of fat will always be a part of business. Imagine buying seed Amazon style. Point, click, ship. No sales pitch about the hottest new hybrids. No finagling on price. No free caps dropped off by the salesperson.

No personal touch whatsoever. Probably not the best idea.