Computerized humans, take 2

Recently I discussed how workers at customer call centers can turn into computer-like zombies. The other day I stood face to face with such a person.

I was trying to order two coffees at a fast coffee shop. My wife likes her espresso with a drop of foamed milk on top – “Espresso Macchiato”, meaning “stained espresso” in Italian. I take mine pure. So I order:

Me: Two espressos, one of them Macchiato.
Coffeeshop cashier: Huh?
Me: One short espresso, one espresso macchiato.
Cashier: what’s that?
Me: It’s espresso with a little foamed milk on it. It’s called espresso macchiato.
Cashier: you can order espresso, or you can order macchiato.
Me: OK, one espresso, one macchiato.
Cashier: [accepts the order without further comment].

You see, it wasn’t that he had never seen a Macchiato – he works in a fancy coffeshop that sells it routinely – it was that the expression “espresso macchiato”, which is grammatically correct and in common usage worldwide, had failed his string processing subroutine. His computer had a button for espresso and a button for macchiato; there was no button for the combined form. A customer ordering anything without a button dedicated to it could be served no more than a Klingon ordering a serving of Gagh.

3 Responses to “Computerized humans, take 2”


  1. 1 Deva Hazarika

    Nathan,

    You fail at retail. Rule number one is figuring out the language used in the establishment and adhering to it.

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    A good rule from Deva. But I did get those coffees, so I’m OK after all…

  3. 3 Jorge

    I oppose: Sales person need to adhere to customer’s language – like these policemen:
    Policemen have been trained in late communication skills, including the techniques of embracing the other’s world. A pedestrian asks: “May I walk when the traffic lights are on orange, or do I have to stop?” “Sir, you wait at strawberry, and you may walk at woodruff.”

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