In an effort to make shopping less miserable for older people, automatic till systems are to become more friendly and welcoming in their interactions. The initiative follows a survey which indicates that senior citizens avoid automated systems because they’d prefer to waste time telling a complete stranger behind a till something trivial and uninteresting.
The study claimed that the elderly prefer to be served by a real person in order to have some human interaction. However, many shop workers want the exact opposite and are happiest when each of their mindless scripted questions such as ‘Do you want any help packing that jar of marmite and box of teabags’ are met with a ‘No thanks’ rather than having to endure a conversation about the price of carrots these days or getting asked one of the questions from The Chase.
Instead of merely informing customers about unknown items in the bagging area, the new automated systems will engage consumers in meaningless small-talk about all kinds of topics such as their grandchildren, the weather and the variety of medical ailments they are suffering from.
They will be capable of holding dull discussions on everything from the state of the local bus service to the state of next door’s garden. However, the longer term aim is for them to have the capability of addressing a lull in the conversation by introducing new subjects. For example, if a customer buys butter, the system will be able to say, ‘Don’t you wish you could get back to the old days of buying half a pound of butter instead of 250 grams?’
In addition to their reluctance to use automated systems, many of the old people surveyed expressed feelings of isolation and loneliness during shopping trips. This is despite them regularly spending half an hour clogging up the supermarket aisles gassing to all the other old people they meet in there every Tuesday and Friday.