EFT-POS and oil companies are evil
My father gave me a petrol—gasoline to our American friends—coupon today that entitled me to 4¢ a litre off, for the Pak ’n’ Save pumps in Petone, a suburb outside Wellington, New Zealand. But, he warned me, the pumps were unmanned, and that I should take his credit card, which has a PIN for electronic funds’ transfer.
I may blog and I may have set up one of the world’s ﬁrst virtual companies, but I have never EFTed before. Ever. I have used an automatic teller about three times in my life, and only twice did it work. I do not carry a cellphone and ﬁnd them ghastly. Essentially, I do not adopt technologies for which I have to change—technology should change with me. It’s what it’s there for: to make human lives easier.
So, how do the unmanned pumps of Pak ’n’ Save work for a man who has no idea, not even a clue, about EFT short of calling a bank and arranging a wire transfer, or sending a PayPal payment? I would consider myself pretty smart—I have four degrees, and am very ﬂuent when it comes to the internet—so is EFT user-friendly?
No. First of all, Pak ’n’ Save had put up a sign. It informed customers that they would no longer receive their discounts as cash, but as extra fuel. Problem: I did not intend to ﬁll the car up with $20 and leave it at that. I was getting 4¢ a litre off. I’d be putting in the nozzle and going all the way.
How was Pak ’n’ Save going to give me my extra fuel? Would a man run out from across the road, where the supermarket was located, and give the fuel to me in a can? Essentially, I took it to mean that the coupon would not be effective.
I then read the ﬁne print. Perhaps being a typeface designer (inter alia) I should have noted the point size of the type. Let’s just say it was small. If you were pumping for the ﬁrst time, you would naturally read it. If your eyesight was any poorer than mine, you would not have a hope.
I learned enough that the petrol was being supplied by the nice folks at British Petroleum (which makes me wonder why they could not sell it for 4¢ off per litre as a matter of course at their own place), and that these pumps were unmanned now that a trial period had ﬁnished, but there was an intercom system if I really got stuck. Apparently the trial was so successful that they didn’t people to stand around and guide folks.
Not wishing to trouble anyone, I set about working. The trial was successful, after all, so I could borrow someone’s pet orangutan and it could use this gadget and pump gas. And I would play it by the book, because this was unfamiliar technology. I was there, anyway, and it would have cost me more to go to another gas station to ﬁll up there. I followed the instructions.
‘Insert card,’ read the digital display.
Still nothing happened.
So, having given up, and concluded that the whole Pak ’n’ Save coupon gag was the biggest con and they should be reported to the Commerce Commission and that the people at BP should be brought to trial in Nigeria, I took out my card.
The machine wheezed into life, belatedly. Remember this was quite a long time.
It asked me to feed in the coupon code.
On a very worn keypad, probably banged on by angry customers, I fed in the digits.
It then asked me for Dad’s PIN. I fed that in.
‘Press cheque, saving or credit,’ it asked next.
Well, I didn’t know that. I had fed in the PIN. Surely the machine could work that out? Just give me some gas, you imbecile!
Since shouting did not seem to work and it revealed there was no midget inside the pump watching with a hidden camera, I hit ‘cheque,’ since I hear Prague is a very nice city.
‘Transaction declined. Printing receipt.’
The receipt blew away since the designers of the receipt catcher did not seem to realize that Wellington is a windy city.
I tried again. I inserted the card.
I continued waiting.
In frustration, I took the card out, and the pump wheezed into life. I then ﬁgured out that the insertion of the card did nothing, but its removal did. Would it have been so hard for someone to have programmed that? In the days when Pak ’n’ Save was trialling this system, did no one ever complain to the attendant that an instruction of ‘Insert card’ when you actually meant ‘Remove card’ was illogical? Was the attendant under orders from Pak ’n’ Save management to never report a single thing if customers got confused? Supposedly.
This time, in case I had fed the PIN in wrong, I tried it again. Then, I wondered if Dad had got the digits mixed up as we had discussed that happening a few days ago.
You get the picture. I tried different combinations. And got nowhere.
Many minutes later, I drove off and searched for a pay phone to call Dad. He told me he was certain of the PIN. I went back to see if I could try other permutations.
Having established that it was the ‘Credit’ option, all ﬁnally went well. I put in as much as the tank could hold, standing there breathing petrol fumes because there was no way to lock the trigger so it would pump by itself. The machine did discount the per-litre price by 4¢—so what was the notice all about? It only served to confuse.
I pumped the gas; no man came out with extra petrol in a can. If Pak ’n’ Save asked me to deduce for myself how the machine worked, with none of their notes and small print, I might have spent less time there. Way too much information—and not good information. A case of GIGO, as we learned as kids about computing: garbage in, garbage out.
I shall be sending Pak ’n’ Save a bill for my time. I am now addicted to petrol fumes. Mmm.
And I hate multinational oil companies and their brands even more after that. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:47
I feel better for being in such illustrious company. I see myself as a well seasoned geek, but a Kiwi pump completely defeated me. Perhaps it's a Dalek plot to bring death by frustration...
The Daleks are deﬁnitely responsible. I have now used EFT-POS once. It sucked. I will not do it again.
i'm guessing you're not a New Zealander or something.
Eftpos is very common. The only time i've carried significant cash in my life has been when i'm not in New Zealand.
hence i guess pak'n'save assumed quite reasonably assumed their customers knew how to operate the eft part of this transaction. We've all been doing it since we were 14 years old.
but for the rest, the opeation of the fuel pump, sounds like they need a re-think.
# posted by Taniwha the Wally: 2/10/2006 09:19:00 PM
Brenda, your guess is wrong, unless ‘New Zealander’ means someone born here (which means we can disregard Keisha Castle-Hughes, Sam Neill and Anna Paquin). And ‘We’ve all been doing it’—well, evidently, we have not all been doing it, and I have lived here (on and off) since 1976. But I agree that the pump needs a serious rethink: no one on the planet would reasonably interpret ‘Insert card’ as ‘Remove card’.
Update: there is now a piece of paper stuck at each pump with ‘Insert and remove card’ printed on it. So evidently, Helen and I were not alone in being defeated by EFT-POS. In fact, on my last visit, one other gentleman had to be guided through the process by another customer (and Brenda, FYI he looked Barry Crump-Kiwi).Post a Comment
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