The Human Factor

I was doing some work around our condo this weekend and needed a few supplies.  I walked over to our neighborhood hardware store, a small store crammed floor to to ceiling with a little bit of everything one might need for home repairs, to pick up these supplies.   I love this store … it reminds me of the hardware stores I used to visit when I was a kid.  They still sell nuts and bolts and other small items individually.  You pick what you need from a bin, write down the bin # and take it to the cash to pay.

I picked up 6 dry wall anchors costing $0.15 each along with several packages of other items that I needed.  The cashier rang up my purchases and told me that I owed her $23 and change.  I thought for a moment, looked at my purchases, and suggested that the amount seemed rather high.  We reviewed the bill and discovered that I had given her the wrong bin # for the wall anchors.   She was charging me for 6 cup hooks, not 6 wall anchors.

As I was walking home I thought about the encounter for a few moment.  The computer-based cash register clearly displayed the description of each item I purchased along with the price.  The cashier did not confirm that was she rang in matched what I had purchased and then proceeded to blame me for giving her the wrong bin #!     What if the encounter had been a medical one?  Just because a computer is involved doesn’t mean that we should assume that the information presented is correct.    Human judgment still plays a critical role in any interaction involving a computer.  We need to always consider the human factor and provide appropriate mechanisms for information review and confirmation of all actions.


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