Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How My Restaurant Was Taken Over by Robots

I was visiting with my friend, Ally who has an important position in HR at a major corporation. She was talking to my teens, telling them where the jobs are going to be in the future. "Technology and environment," she said. "You know what jobs won't exist in a few more years? Customer service," she went on to say. "Customer service jobs will be nearly non-existent." 

"That's okay. With his grades," I nodded my head toward my son, "my kids are likely to end up scooping elephant poop at the zoo," I joked. Then I thought about it for a minute. Could she be right? No customer service? Sure, you rarely speak to a person when you call a customer service line anymore. You get routed through an automated system, but I can't imagine customer service jobs disappearing altogether. Will they? 

Later that same evening, my kids and I went out to dinner with Ally. We walked into a Chili’s restaurant in Winter Garden, FL and were seated at a table upon which sat a small screen, not unlike an iPad. I saw several game apps displaced on the screen and immediately rolled my eyes. I made a sarcastic comment. “In case you’re not addicted enough to your phone, now you can also play on this screen in order to completely tune out your dinner companions.”

I talked with my friend and my kids, but my gaze kept getting pulled to this screen with the nonstop advertisements. My son quickly realized that, for .99, he could play a game on this tablet, and repeatedly asked for permission to do so. I adamantly refused to give in, citing that he had enough opportunities to play games during the day. Dining out with family and friends is a treat and a chance to visit with loved ones, not an opportunity to zone out with a game that costs a dollar to play. I moved the tablet off the table and onto a counter behind us.

After the waitress took our orders, she explained that we could use the tablet to order drinks and dessert whenever we wanted. “Well, whaddya know? Ally, you were right! Customer service WILL BE a thing of the past! Our waitress has been replaced by a computer. Robots are taking over the world! We’re all gonna die!” I dramatically announced.

My kids (and possibly a few dozen other patrons) stopped eating and stared at me. Our waitress delivered our food and reminded us that we could use the tablet screen to order drinks and dessert, pay our bill, and find a back door into a military central computer, mistake it for a game, and possibly start World War III.

We ignored the tablet through our meal. When it came time to pay, I asked the waitress, “Can I have the bill, please?”

She answered, “It’s on there,” indicating the tablet. You just swipe your card to pay. You can split it into separate bills first, if you’d like.”

Wow. There’s no getting around it. It makes me wonder though — is this something you find helpful? Do you like the idea? I imagine research and testing was done before this technology was implemented and since it was indeed implemented, I presume it was accepted by the masses. But how about the older generation? Do they shake their heads, confused by technology they may not instinctively know how to use? Do parents of small children applaud the apps that occupy their kids so they can carry on a conversation without them? Or do they think it’s ridiculous that kids today can’t hold a conversation and have the attention span of a rock, thanks in part to all the electronic stimulation they receive?

What are your thoughts? Helpful or a little ridiculous? My opinion? It all reminds me of the Jetsons. No matter what your feelings are, I’m sure these tablets won’t be going away, and other establishments will be following along shortly. Now if only they’d perfect the flying car of the future — today, so I could sail over traffic, I’d be a happy camper.

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