May 07, 2002
Crappy Clerk Or Crappy Programmer?

Random Jottings has an interesting piece about 'crap jobs' and how technology has helped provide work that even stupid people can do. However, one of his examples seems a little dubious:

Memorized procedures allow non-thinkers to do complex jobs. Any thinkers are promoted to manager, and they alone are allowed to use common sense. This can drive you crazy. There was a Blockbuster employee recently who could not rent me the movie I had in my hand, because "the computer says there are no copies in inventory."

It's quite possible that the computer program was written in such a way that it was in fact impossible to override a "no copies in stock" status. Of course, the clerk could have jotted something down on a piece of paper and rented the tape "by hand", but that would have been unwise. What if RJ didn't bring it back, or didn't bring it back while that particular clerk was on duty? Pencil and paper only work for mom-and-pop stores.

In short, while I agree with the main point, this particular example is not entirely probative, since the problem may have been an inflexible program rather than a stupid clerk. Then again, I haven't met the clerk, and there may have been other clues as to the source of the problem.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 07, 2002 11:27 PM