When you talk non-stop about digital, it sometimes gives you a reality check when you actually live life in a physical world. The frustrations of crashed systems, products that don’t work, call centre operators who aren’t co-operative and check-in staff who can’t check-in. Equally, there are the moments of pure bliss such as the smell of freshly cut grass, the first coffee of the day, the sight of a butterfly and the feel of the hot sun on the back of your neck.
We must not forget these realities, as digital should be all about making our physical world experiences even better. Digital should be resolving the frustrations and augmenting the bliss. However, the reason I mention this is that I also realise how far we have to go in some of my travels. Two cases in point.
I saw a vending machine in the airport and wanted to buy one of the products shown. The machine gave me two options. Pay in local currency, of which I had none, or pay by credit card through their online service. I chose the latter – the airport had free Wi-Fi – and entered their website domain.
First, the site would not load on my mobile. Eventually, when it did, it was hardly navigable so I gave up and decided to get some local currency. After a brief argument with the cambia de exchange, I returned with some crispy new notes in my hand and pushed one into the cash entry on the machine. The machine rejected it. I tried again. It was rejected again. This process was repeated several times and then I thought: I wonder if these notes are too new and crispy? After crunching a note into a small ball and then straightening it again, I pushed this one into the cash slot and it worked.
Hmmm … I guess this vending company doesn’t sell very much.
The second experience was just paying for parking. I’d left my car in the hotel car park for three nights and needed to move on. Upon checking out, I asked the hotel if they had a deal on car parking. No sir, said the nice checkout lady, you must pay separately at the machine as you enter the car park. OK.
I walk to the car park and find the machine, enter my ticket and the grand sum of €94.80 appears. I then try to see where to put my credit card. Oh. There’s no card slot and, sure enough, the screen shows a card with a big red cross over it.
Maybe the other machine will accept cards? No. Same again.
OK, so maybe I can pay the attendant as I have no cash. I slink over to the attendant’s window, just as I spot him moving rapidly to the back door to escape.
Excusez moi! I say loudly. He turns and gives me the evil eye. Canna I paya avec moi cartes? My German isn’t very good, but he gets the idea, and walks out of the back door. He comes around the side of the office and appears next to me, and grabs my arm. No words are exchanged.
The old man gives me the steely eye look again. He points at my hand holding the credit card and at the machine’s screen, where the card with the red cross appears. He then gives me a shake of the head to show the answer is no.
I get the idea that this is a cash only car park. Wherea canna I getta money? I ask in my best local accent.
He points out of the car park door and then shows a turn to the left and then a turn to the right in big sweeping motions. I leave the car park and find the ATM nearby. As I’m leaving the country, the last thing I wanted to do was to get more cash but … returning with €100 note in hand, the car park machine duly accepts my payment and gives me an exit ticket.
I purely recite these two examples of many, to illustrate that we are moving away from physical to digital but it’s going to be a slow process.