At the Checkout Counter

nyone who thinks that programmers are in general a superior intellectual elite will get a real world counter example here.

Just back from Walmart. Used "debit card" from my bank. How many times a day does someone swipe their card through one of those readers? Now think of how many man hours are wasted by the slightest wasteful motion involved in that simple transaction. A single unnecessary button push will lose the equivalent of at least a lifetime per day wouldn't it?

Let us proceed to save about 5 lives per day in America ... hmmm ... that's 1825 lives per year ... or ... the equivalent of preventing about 6 mass death air crashes in a year's time (just in this country).

What is the least number of actions on your part necessary to pay by credit or debit card?

Answer: ... Five

  1. Press 1st digit - pin number
  2. Press 2nd digit - pin number
  3. Press 3rd digit - pin number
  4. Press 4th digit - pin number
  5. Swipe the card
    End of story

How many are actually required in the real world?

Well ... first you deal with the cashier who asks "Is that credit or debit? Answering her is the first unnecessary action. Obviously, with 16 numbers on any card you own, each card is completely identified by that number.
16 numbers is 10,000,000,000,000,000 combinations and there aren't that many cards in existence. The reason for the big number is to make it hard to guess a valid number at random.
Whatever database is accessed knows its cards completely by that number, i.e. whether its a credit card or debit card. Failure to program this into the protocol costs 1 human life per day.

Now, you swipe your card through the reader and it doesn't work because there are 8 possible ways to swipe your card ... 7 wrong and only 1 right. These are top to bottom swipe or bottom to top swipe (2x) top of card right or left (2x) bottom of card right or left (2) = 8 permutations. Anyone is as likely as another if you don't look and since no one really looks, the first swipe is a "miss" requiring a "closer inspection" and correct swipe. Cost here again, 1 human life per day. (Why can't a reader work like a scanner, i.e. any old way will do?)

Now it asks you "English or Spanish?". This is ridiculous since the only thing it has occasion to ask is "Enter pin number". Why not just display "Tu numero?" along with it (or whatever is correct Spanish)? The cost of this extra button push ... 1 more human life per day.

After you press your 4 digit pin number, you are required to press enter. Why? Can't computers count? I thought that's what "Tiggers do bethst". No ... after pressing four digits the computer should move on ... not ask for useless confirmation. If the customer has entered the wrong number, it just cames back with "Enter pin number" again. Cost ... 1 human life per day.

Now comes the stupidest Q of all. "Your bill is $32.27 ... is this OK?" ( ! ) The cost was up on the register right in front of you all the time. The act of swiping the card was your confirmation (for Christ's sake!). Another 1 human life per day here.

Let's add 'em up ... yup, 5 lives per day

Whoops, almost forgot one. "Do you want any extra cash?" ( ! ) Why ask? You should have to tell cashier if you want extra cash. The default must be to pay the exact amount as is the case most of the time. But not all readers ask this so I'll leave it out. However, if all cashiers ask it, it's like waitresses asking "Smoking or non-smoking?" which requires a two or three syllable reply when they should just say "Non-smoking?" which requires only a one syllable reply ... "yes" or "no". We'll just leave this as an irritant.

Well, who programmed this crap?

Obviously, people who don't understand the importance of stripping simple repetitive tasks to the absolute bone. When such tasks are carried out in the tens of billions of times per annum there is an enormous potential loss-gain situation. The "sands of time" are made from such grains and "determine the days of our lives".

Now, if we could just get rid of
those damn pennies

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