Are tech advances of online purchasing excluding people from society?

Our Salford reporter Chris explains his struggles and frustrations around everyday task and purchaseswhich now require technology, with little way around them – for instance, the latest phone to scan codes. Do you feel the same way?

My mobile’s a vintage entry-level Samsung on its last legs, but catering to my needs – phone, calls/texts to nearest and dearest, WhatsApp for Walking Football club fixture dates and kick-off times (but the bantz drives me crazy!) and the camera.

Also, since I retired in 2015, I really have had no need for a printer, what with the cost of replacement printer ink and all!

Needless to say, online banking’s a complete no-no and I’m extremely hesitant to buy online as I’m concerned about security, and abhor setting up accounts/passwords; besides I prefer going to a physical shop browsing stock and actually trying things on before purchasing.

I believe this may also help the environment too as the number of delivery vehicles clogging the roads would be decimated.

During the lockdowns, there was a necessary shift to online though fortunately, I was able to grocery shop throughout at our local Co-Op. However, it seems apparent to me that many businesses and organisations have used the pandemic to pivot their dealings exclusively to online, presumably saving headcount costs in so doing.

I offer two examples of this paradigm shift. I read a good review in my actual paper delivered to my home of a play coming to the Lowry Theatre and ‘booked’ tickets via a phone call to the Box Office.

Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays

At the end of the call I was informed that I’d receive a QR code that I could download onto my mobile phone (ha ha!) or print off (hee hee!) In the end, no QR was received anyway and after a pleasant pre-theatre dinner I queued at the Box Office.

Regrettably, the two staff members were engaged with couples clearly enquiring about future productions and no one was handling that night’s performance. The outcome was slightly raised blood pressure and taking our seats in the dark after the play had begun.

My second example refers to my beloved football club with whom I’ve held a season ticket for some twenty-five years, which had been renewed by phone or visiting the Ticket Office, and receiving a ‘credit card’ that fits nicely in the wallet.

This season renewal has been exclusively online, with no access to telephone and, presumably, an unmanned Ticket Office. This forced me to prevaricate
before renewing and then doing so frantically before the deadline.

It was a fraught process that stressed me and there were a couple of password resets before completion.

Then horror of horrors – the entry method was to be a QR code…uploaded onto your phone or printed off! The lack of personnel was exacerbated for me when I was desperate to get champions league tickets for home games.

I found the instructions contradictory in that my account clearly showed that I was set up to attend champion’s league home ties but the email I received from the club suggested that I had to purchase them separately.

This matters, as champions league is most important to me and caused me a level of anxiety. I’d exhausted trying to get through for advice on the phone and had determined to visit the ground for advice when an email popped up informing that payment had been taken for the first home game. Halellujia!

Whilst I recognise that I am the dinosaur and that in many ways tech is a boon, and even though, despite reservations, I do somehow through good luck or a bit of savvy manage to get what I want, I cannot help but worry that there must be an army of people out there whom tech excludes from society.

Not everyone has up to date mobiles, laptops and so on and surely there are many who
aren’t able to book exclusively online; or for whom closure of their local bank branch is of critical importance.

Let’s hope that as technology marches relentlessly on there are some who will not be
able to keep pace, and let’s hope that their needs are catered for too.

Do you agree? Leave a comment or send your thoughts to [email protected]


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