Cheating the machine

Alfred Thompson and I had had a bit of a back and forth about automated checkouts recently. He liked them; me, not so much.

We have two stores in town that have incorporated this – Sobeys and Walmart. They haven’t gone completely automated and so we typically will go to a cashier. Over the years, we’ve got to know them personally and I’d hate to see them lose their jobs.

The automated tellers always have a person there to help you and they can be pretty aggressive at times. Even to the point of doing the checkout for you to show you how easy it is. We always pass; it’s not that difficult but I will admit that I’m not even close to the professional cashier that knows where and how to pack the eggs and the fresh bread.

One of Alfred’s arguments was that there was a time when we’d get gas pumped by an attendent. (and they’d check oil and clean your windshields too) His argument is valid – do I want to return to that slower life? My counter to this, and I do remember their appearance at gas stations, was that there was a price cut that you got if you pumped your own. It’s 3-5 cents/litre and you can still see that at ONRoutes on the 401. But, the price of eggs is the same whether I check them out or a cashier checks them out. Not only is the price the same but the cashier does a far better job than I do. It’s kind of nice to have a complete dozen when you get home.

All of this resurfaced on Sunday when Alfred shared this story proving that I’m a total moron.

The Banana Trick and Other Acts of Self-Checkout Thievery

I may not agree with the moron comment but will confess perhaps to being naive. The thoughts of cheating as described in the article quite frankly never occurred to me. Other than being just an honest person to begin with, I’m aware that there are cameras everywhere and so if anyone was going to get caught, it would be me. Besides, there are still those theft sensors that you have to walk through to exit the store.

And, I seem to have bad luck too. Inevitably, there’s a perceived mistake that I didn’t put the object I just scanned into the bag and the helper has to come running to override the machine. I always have this nagging feeling that I’m guilty until proven innocent.

The bottom line is that I try to avoid them where possible but I’ll admit that given to pressure, I’ll use them. They’re not that difficult; it’s just that I know that ultimately people will lose jobs when, not if, this is implemented wholescale.

Except, I guess for the programmers that write the code to make all of this happen. Could there be a classroom exercise in this? Program the camera on a phone or laptop to read the UPC and then a device attached to the computer to determine whether the object goes into a bag. It’s an interesting and maybe relevant topic.

Somehow I doubt that those who will be losing their jobs will be re-educated as programmers but Computer Science teachers see future programmers every day. Can we add this to being future ready?

And finally, there’s an interesting assertion that is included in the post. On the heels of the CSTA Conference where I did have some discussion about ethics, this quote appears in the article.

“There is NO MORAL ISSUE with stealing from a store that forces you to use self checkout, period. THEY ARE CHARGING YOU TO WORK AT THEIR STORE.”

How’s that, and this entire article, for a lead in to ethics…

OTR Links 07/29/2019

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.