When technology takes you backward

technologyWe spend a lot of time talking about technology in this industry. Programs like Mohawk’s Omnify, Broadlume’s full suite of services, Roomvo’s high-tech room viewer are just three that immediately come to mind. These platforms help facilitate operations and increase retailer profitability or improve the customer experience.

But not all technology is necessarily beneficial technology. Here’s an example: The art of ordering food or drinks at the airport. What do you think is the most efficient and easiest way to order coffee? Get on the line, clearly tell the person at the register what you want, pay, he or she makes the coffee exactly (we hope) to your specifications and you’re on your way. Simple transaction, yes?

Apparently not. I suppose some graduate of the ridiculous Six Sigma program (yes, the same Six Sigma that actually started Armstrong Flooring’s destruction) decided it was more efficient to order coffee and food from an iPad first (if that wasn’t) confusing and inefficient enough) but now from your iPhone. No wonder Apple stocks continue to rise. Apple is on the rise and getting a cup of coffee at the airport is extremely challenging.

Let me tell you a little story: Last week I was traveling to Atlanta for a customer appreciation event hosted by one of our partners. I arrived at the airport an hour before my flight. Went through security without too much fuss. (By the way, I highly recommend Clear and PreCheck.) I approached a Starbucks and as usual the line was longer than a city block. Do not worry. Starbucks coffee is as overrated as the Yankees in a playoff series. Plus, I knew there were other establishments that served coffee within a short walk. So I thought.

My first stop was a restaurant called Trattoria with a large sign that said, “We serve breakfast.” Perfect. “May I help you?” “Large coffee, please.” “We don’t serve coffee.” Lesson learned: coffee is not breakfast.

I walk down the escalator as I get a little closer to my gate. I know there are a few other places along the way. First I am met by a cash register and an iPad with no person in sight. After a few minutes I mark one.

“Large coffee to go, please.”

“I’m sorry sir. No coffee to go. Just dinner.”

“What about that coffee you drink (from a coffee cup to go?)”

“This is mine.”

Right next door I see a bar where people are sitting. Oriental breakfast. Drinking coffee. Paid dirt. I walk over to the bartender (remarkably still my composure) and say the same phrase I’ve repeated more often in the past five minutes than in the previous month: “Large coffee to go, please.”

“I’m sorry sir. You need to order from your phone and use this QR code.”

This from a woman standing next to an exceptionally large coffee maker.

‘Can’t you just give me a cup of coffee? Here’s 5 dollars.”

“I’m sorry sir, you need to scan this QR code on your phone.”

Whatever. I scan the QR code and I can’t find anything that looks like an opportunity to order coffee. But I could order something called Shakshuka, some kind of weird egg dish in a spicy tomato sauce. I am now furious. “How the hell do you order coffee?”

“Well, first you have to select the restaurant.” Select the restaurant? I’m standing here in THIS restaurant. I don’t even know what this restaurant is called. It is the restaurant with people sitting at the bar having breakfast and drinking coffee. Which apparently was not ordered through a human.

This so-called technology is a step back from the Horn & Hardart vending machines my parents took me to when I was 7 (for those too young to remember, a vending machine was a fast food restaurant serving simple food and drinks by vending machines. Put your coins in, get your food. Simple.)

As I scroll through my phone looking for a way to order coffee, I get a message on my screen: “Your zone is now boarding.”

You can’t make this up.

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