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Low tech, hi tech or apt tech?

As usual, the other day I went to a bank cheque drop point to deposit a cheque. But this time I was in for a surprise. Instead of the simple wooden box with an aperture, I found a cute, impressive electronic machine. It took some time to learn the “procedure” to drop a cheque. Any way, the instructions were thankfully written in understandable language and appeared on the interactive screen. Press any key to start. I pressed a key. “Beep”..the machine seemed to approve my action. The next instruction was to “enter my 12 digit account number. “Beep, beep…….(12 times) and my account number was keyed in. This is real fun, I thought, much more exciting than the drab old drop box!

Next, the screen gently prompted me to press “enter” if correct. I checked the number again and verified that it was correct. Yes it was, and I gave a confident jab on the “enter' button. It again acknowledged with a “beep”. Then the machine asked me to deposit the cheque in a particular manner and no stapling or crumpling please! I inserted the cheque. Nothing happened. I manipulated the position several times. By that time the machine got frustrated and thought I was dumb. The message “you have not inserted the cheque on time, try again… press any key to start” appeared on the screen. I repeated the procedure. This time when the machine prompted me to insert cheque, I found there is a particular position for the cheque insertion. I inserted the cheque in that slant and voila! The machine came to life. Grrrr, grrr, grrr. The cheque was pulled in and out of the machine 3 to 4 times (I thought it would get torn!) and finally it came out with the message “cheque not inserted correctly, try again”. Press any key to start. The whole rigmarole of steps once again! I tried it once more. This time too it was the same problem. I felt like an ass being bullied by this little machine. I wondered if the 21st century state-of-the-art technology was so dumb.

I said enough is enough. I am making a complaint right away. Luckily there was a toll free phone in the cabin. I dialled the number. Pat came the reply in English and Hindi “Please check the number you have dialled” In my frustration I must have dialled the wrong number. I dialled again. This time I was through. But again I was dealing with a machine this time though it was speaking. “Welcome to the customer care services. Press 1 for English, press 2 for Hindi, press 3 for Malayalam” I pressed 1. “Please enter your 12 digit account number followed by the star button.” I entered the same and after a number of complicated steps I saw the light at the end of the technological tunnel. “Press 9 to speak to a customer service executive.” With a silent “Hurray” to myself, I pressed 9. At last, I am going to speak to a human being!

Then came the message. “All our customer services executives are busy, please stay on the line. We appreciate your patience.”This was followed by a lousy instrumental music. The earlier announcement would come at frequent intervals interspersed with the music. The music set me thinking. In the name of hi tech, the simple act of dropping a cheque in a box was made so complicated! I had spent almost 30 minutes grappling with a machine just to drop a cheque in a box! There are many such instances where machines have ironically made life more miserable. I thought of the small pocket-sized passbook which was so convenient to carry. The present elongated passbooks are the most difficult to update. Sometimes, the system is “down” or the link is slow or the printer does not work. Never mind the illegible handwriting, the old pass book system was better. We are so impressed with hi tech, we deploy them everywhere without thinking whether it is appropriate technology.

Another 15 minutes elapsed. The music continued with the same polite apologies. I had to get back to work. I hung up and decided to go to the bank itself and present the cheque there.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 12:32:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Low-tech-hi-tech-or-apt-tech/article15766516.ece

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