The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

“I'm sorry. We can't take your order right now, the computer crashed and we have no idea how to proceed.”

Today is Game Day™. Every other week I get together with some friends to play D&D for a few hours. Sometimes it's hosted here at Chez Boca, other times one of my friend's house. Today it's not at Chez Boca, so as usual, I stop by the Scottish place for a quick lunch. And because I'm weird, I avoid the drive thru.

I noticed a few months ago that McDonald's had installed a few ordering kiosks. Aside from the clunkiness of the interface, it's not that bad. Which upon reflection is strange, because I hate the things at other restaurants. My experience using the Ziosk (not only at the Olive Garden but also Chili's) is not good. A few times the unit has been broken and it took a very confused staff longer to process the check than normal.

And heaven help you if you want to pay by cash.



So, why do I hate the Ziosks and yet, don't mind the kiosks at McDonald's? I've been thinking about that today, and the best I can come up with is that at a sit-down restaurant, I'm there to enjoy a meal with company and don't want to be distracted by a device not only demanding our attention, but taking up space on a table that can get quite crowded with plates and glasses. I think it also cheapens the waitrons in a way—no longer do you have a single person handling your dinner, but you have several people who cycle through, one person taking the order, one person serving the drinks, another bringing the food, there's not continuity in service. And there's this feeling of replaceability of not only the servers, but of the customers.

And who is the tip for, exactly?

It's hard to describe, and maybe it's just me.

There's also the issue of letting a device, which processes financial transactions into the hands of the customers! Customers which may attempt to hack the devices (although why do I trust the waitrons?). And if the Ziosk crashes … well … I've experienced the chaos it can cause with the staff.

But the kiosk at McDonald's though—there's no tipping. The staff you interact with is just there to take your order. There are other people who do the actual job of preparing your order. And even they don't prepare the entire order. In order to save time we customers are now mostly responsible for filling our own cups of whatever lovely beverage we chose to drink. So that's one job less they have to do. And the kiosks now remove one to two other jobs—taking the order and receiving payment (if you want to pay cash, you have the option to go to the register and pay). So pretty much all that's now left is food preparation.

And I'm fine with that for fast food. Maybe because it's somewhat impersonal to begin with.

All this came to a head today as I was grabing lunch on the way to the D&D game. All the kiosks at The Scottish place had crashed. And there was much confusion at the counter.

Ah, computer automation! Gotta love it.

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