‘Picture the scene: an elderly couple are attempting to park their car near my home.
The wife, mobile phone in hand, reading spectacles perched on the end of her nose, was trying to download the app which would enable her to pay electronically (the only option in our borough).
The husband was barking commands over her shoulder, not entirely helpfully.
Both of them had that recognisable air of desperation we all experience when the technology allegedly designed to make our lives easier actually makes things immeasurably more complicated.
I offered to help. After a frantic 20 minutes or so trying to reset various passwords, we had to admit defeat. So I whipped out my own phone, punched in their registration number and paid using my own app.
The husband tried to force a tenner on me, but my reward was knowing that I had, in my own small way, saved two fellow human beings from techno-rage. Not to mention a hefty parking fine.
The fact it is increasingly impossible to do anything without a smartphone drives me crazy. It’s such a tyranny that everything we do, everywhere we go, has to be recorded on a supercomputer in a Nevada desert (or wherever tech companies keep their servers), no doubt to be sold as data currency to further line the pockets of the likes of Apple and Microsoft.
Now we learn the rot has spread. Sainsbury’s are planning to roll out a cashless scheme that requires shoppers to pay for their groceries by scanning barcodes into — yes, you guessed it — a mobile phone app.
Payment will be taken by card online, and the receipt sent by email. And all in the interests of ‘customer convenience’.
Who are they trying to kid? Automated tills are bad enough — forever shouting at you about unexpected items in bagging areas and giving you the third degree about the number and nature of your carrier bags, before seizing up completely owing to a rogue lemon. Goodness only knows what fresh horrors this new checkout-free initiative will bring.
Either way, rest assured: very soon we won’t have a choice in the matter. The relentless march of our digital economy means that for companies such as Sainsbury’s, handing the entire process over to an algorithm is a no-brainer.’