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Friday, 17 July 2015

The Bureaucratisation of Everyday Life

I walked into my local cinema today to buy two film tickets in advance. It’s a municipal enterprise so they had a bit of a problem booting up the computer. But after a couple of minutes, Yes there are seats available and I put down the money (cash, eight quid – a municipal bargain I thought).

Then she asked for my name. Oh no. Here we go. “Jeremy Clarkson”. It’s tempting but I always flunk it. Then my address. At this point I put on my biggest smile and said, “No. I just want to buy two cinema tickets”.

“It’s in case the show is cancelled”. “I don’t mind. Let it be cancelled. I just want to buy two tickets”

She could have said “It’s so we can contact your next of kin when the place burns down”. It would have been more plausible.

Fortunately, at this point the municipal computer system crashed and I was issued with two handwritten apologies for tickets – and they still don’t have my address in their System. One up to me.

I hate this bureaucratisation of everyday transactions where you can’t just Shop and Go.

You go on line and have to give your life history before you can buy anything. Then you immediately get an email, “How was your online Experience today?” Then later you’ll get another one, “How do you rate your Satisfaction with your recent purchase?” and then maybe "People who bought what you bought also bought ..."

It’s a whole industry of fairly pointless effort which at best feeds into some sweaty Power Point presentation to some bored audience of Passionate People.

I don’t want people to be passionate about unblocking my drains. I just want them to unblock them. I will say Thank You nicely, probably tip (I have always tipped) and then close the door on that episode in my life.

Still less do I want some online business to be Passionate about selling me a pair of socks. I just want the socks. If they aren’t very good, I will probably bin them rather than send them back. Life is short.

Computers and online shopping have the potential to simplify our lives. But they are being used to complexify it and drag us into endless form filling and feedback. I don’t know how it can be reversed other than by Awkward Squad behaviour which finally gets the message through to the Power Points.

The best I can hope for, I suppose, is that market traders don’t get infected:

“Now, govn’r, how did you feel today about my banana selling? Did you get Customer Satisfaction? No, no – not from the bananas but from me, Guv : for the bananas themselves, you take this little form – see Guv – and tick one of these little boxes and next time you’re here we can Review your Satisfaction and add it to my Online profile. Best bananas, best banana selling - that's what I'm Passionate about, Guv”

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