Written by Alex Nichols
My name is Riley Caldwell. I am 70 years old and a widower. I lost my entire retirement savings when my financial planner (since deceased; suicide) fraudulently used it to invest in a shopping app for pets, where they could independently purchase things like food, tummy rubs, etc. Although the user interface was clean and intuitive, the app ultimately failed because animals cannot understand the concept of money.
In order to make a living, I signed up with a service called ElderGig, which people use to hire older folks like me to perform archaic tasks that they’ve either forgotten or never learned in the first place. It’s a cheaper alternative to those automated chore systems. I quite enjoy the work, actually. Just this week I folded some laundry, baked a cake, and repaired an old computer hard drive that had been completely corrupted for decades. As long as I book about 60 ElderGigs a week, I usually make enough for rent.
Anyway, I suppose none of that matters to you. The reason I’m writing is because I had a very unsatisfactory experience with one of your EarnedPay kiosks earlier today. Basically, the kiosk did not produce a PayCube, nor did it replenish my digital PayWallet, despite the fact that I verified all my ElderGig contract work for the week.
I do not know what could have gone wrong. I use your kiosks all the time, so I know the drill. I entered my effort metrics (BPM, brain activity, sweat production), submitted drug test samples, provided notarized proof of good attitude, and attached my timesheet, which I had triple-checked for errors and discrepancies, as usual. And yet, instead of printing my PayCube, the kiosk proceeded to ask me a series of questions I had never been asked before.
First, it asked if I felt I’d really earned my pay that week. And I said “Well, yes, and isn’t that what an EarnedPay kiosk is supposed to determine anyway, whether I earned my pay?” And the kiosk said “I’m not a fan of your tone.” And I said “Huh?” And the kiosk said “Don’t say ‘huh’.” And I said “I believe I earned my pay this week, okay?” And the kiosk said “Okay.”
And then the kiosk whirred for a couple seconds while this little drawing of a happy face bounced around the screen.
When the happy face stopped bouncing around, the kiosk asked what I’d be spending my money on this week. I was like, why does that matter? Why does it matter what I’m spending my money on if I earned the money? And the kiosk said “EarnedPay Inc. has signed a pledge to help prevent wasteful spending and encourage purchases that help stimulate the economy and promote prosperity through responsible consumption.” And I said “Okay.” And the kiosk said “Okay.” And then I just stood there, for maybe a minute, until the kiosk said “Well?” And I was like “Well what?” And the kiosk said “Well, what are you going to spend your money on?”
“Rent,” I told the kiosk. “And food.”
Then the kiosk asked me if I would commit to purchasing at least one Tastyco brand snack product, such as YummiO’s, DeliciousBars, or Flavor-Units. I stopped myself from saying “Huh?” and just said “Sure.” And the kiosk said “Okay…” in this tone like it didn’t believe me or something.
The happy face bounced around for a long time this time, like three minutes. I said “Yes, I will buy a Tastyco product, hello?” and I tapped on the screen a bunch but the kiosk just ignored me. I started shouting “I will buy a Tastyco product!” over and over again. The people at the other kiosks gawked at me like I was crazy.
Suddenly the kiosk woke up. “Please wait,” it said. “What the hell have I been doing for the last three minutes?” I shouted. The kiosk whirred, or maybe grumbled. Finally, the screen turned red, with black text that said “ERROR 1867 – FAILURE TO PROCESS – PLEASE TRY AGAIN.” So I tried again, but as soon as I scanned my retinas, I got the same error message. I got the same error message on every kiosk I tried. I went across town, tried some kiosks there. Again, “ERROR 1867 – FAILURE TO PROCESS – PLEASE TRY AGAIN.”
I went on your website and read a long series of confusing help center articles, one article linking to the next, until finally I reached one that just said “In the event of an Error 1867, please try again.” Then it had the audacity to ask if I’d found the article helpful.
Look, I know you’re probably just a chatbot. As soon as I press enter, you’ll probably detect the words “ERROR 1867” and tell me to try again. But if there’s a human reading this, I beg of you: help me. Override this chat algorithm and help me. I need to pay rent and buy food. I’ll buy nothing but Tastyco products if I have to. Please just give me my money.
I promise I’ve earned it.
This work was featured in issue #2