I was interested to see that loveable old grumpy Richard Wilson on TV the other night moaning about all the automated systems we have to deal with.
A lot of it was fair enough. I mean, who could love automated telephone menu systems? (Can anyone explain how on over 50% of the calls I make, whatever time of day, they appear to be experiencing higher than usual call volumes?) And I agree that those systems for paying for car parking by phone are a nightmare. But there was one thing they got wrong - and the way they went about it was very naughty.
Young Mr Wilson was moaning about supermarket self-checkouts. To try out (or rather to try to disprove) the claim that they are quicker to use, they took an immense sample of four people to compare self-checkout and going through a traditional till. And it was a fiasco of a test.
Firstly they compared the times for the two checkout processes from the point the checkout started. This misses the whole point, dumbos! When I go into the little Tesco which contains our Post Office, the manned checkout always has a queue of 3 to 4 people. At least one of the self checkouts is nearly always available. What you should compare is the time from entering the queue, not the time from starting checking out. Doh.
Secondly, they had suspiciously many problems with the self checkout. (I noticed one of the testers had actually put a piece of paper over the scanner and then spent ages wondered why it wouldn't scan.) I think the best of them had to be rescued by the operator about five times. Now I use a self checkout most days. And I'd say over half the times there are no interventions, and the rest there is usually one or two. I don't think I've ever had five. It was just ludicrous.
So Channel 4, by all means attack the irritating systems that give no benefit - but do it in a fair way. This was very naughty indeed.