If you ever visit a large and/or busy post office, you may have seen one of the US Postal Service’s latest advances in self-service technology, the Automated Postal Center.
The post office near my downtown office building has one of these, and I love it. I use it every chance I get. Not to slight the job performance of postal workers (never cross a postal worker), but I find these machines to be faster and more efficient than going to the window, plus there’s almost never any line. Granted, maybe someday when everyone learns to love technology as much as I do (fax machines and photocopiers excluded), things will change, but for now I can usually just walk right up, take care of my business, and move on.
But there’s something about these machines I don’t like: the illogically friendly, human tone of the on-screen text, especially at the conclusion of the transaction:
Thanks. It’s been a pleasure serving you.
Really? Has it? Can a machine derive pleasure from anything? And if so, from serving me? Well, I suppose we do want our sentient utilitarian devices to be as servile as possible. But we’re not there yet. Some human wrote the computer program that operates this equipment, and they put that string of text into it. Who are they fooling? And why are those people being allowed out in public?
Wouldn’t “Thank you for your business” have sufficed? I’d feel a lot more comfortable with that.