Turtle Under a Truck Tire

Broken Trust Through Damaged Expectations

Recently I went with my son to a local fast-food restaurant. Although I tend to have relatively cautious eating habits, I don’t mind having a cheap chicken sandwich or a burrito now and again.

Like most fast-food restaurants today, we placed our order at the kiosk without ever speaking to a person. I personally like using the automated order and payment systems. But just like self-service checkout systems at grocery stores, some people are resistant to change to these impersonal machines.

In a negative light, those kiosks are used to reduce the staff. On the other hand, they are a study in user-friendly interactive applications. So eventually people get used to them and finally grow to prefer them.

Those Kiosks are an interesting way to make a first impression at a restaurant. Rather than looking over the cashier’s head at pictures, prices and lists on the wall, you have an up close and personal interaction with a bright vibrant screen covered with images of attractive-looking food. You click and swipe your order, it affirms your choices and guides you easily through the entire process, never having to interact with a disinterested teen-age kid or a person who looks like they could have been homeless the week before.

After a few moments they call your name. Then you grab the bag with your food that is strategically hidden in wrappers and containers, and you head off to eat your meal.

Then reality hits.

You open the wrapper and find a chicken sandwich that looks more like a turtle that met a tragic end under a truck tire. But sadly, that's what we expect. We don’t actually expect it to look like the picture on the Kiosk. We pay for the food knowing that the picture is a visual misrepresentation. It is a lie of sorts. And other than a few jokes and silly comments in articles such as this, no one does anything to try and change this. For most of us, we don’t care. We have been trained to recognize the difference and we don’t get worked up when ideals aren’t met.

But there is a downside to our complacency in presenting impossible ideals.

More than anytime in history, we live in a society of pixel-perfect and unrealistic imagery. And everyday our unpleasant reality meets those idealistic expectations. In the extreme we see how a constant barrage of perfect images of perfect people living perfect lives can lead to dangerous reactions in certain people; resulting in things like anorexia and bulimia.

Young people, especially teen age girls, are impacted more than any other group. They make massive changes to themselves in an attempt to meet those expectations. In some cases, the pressure is felt so acutely, a young woman will transform her very identity and attempt to turn herself into an entirely new person so those standards and expectations no longer apply. That would seem like conjecture were it not for the fact that the growth in these numbers among young women, especially those who are predisposed to mental illness or on the autism spectrum, has increased alarmingly since the advent of the iphone.

We are carelessly directing a firehose of impossible standards and expectations toward the very people who need it least. Certainly the societal consequences, in those cases, are only beginning.

But for most of us, the constant barrage of perfect imagery does not lead to a breakdown in how we define ourselves. But it still leads to something perverse.

When I opened my chicken sandwich of course I didn’t expect it to look anything like the picture on the screen. Indeed I would have been shocked if it did. I think this is true for all of us in that same setting. We have no expectation that what we receive will look like what is presented to us during the sales process.

In some unfortunate way we have lost that innocent ability to trust. This can be a good thing because it protects us from those who would take advantage of it. On the other hand it causes us to be jaded. A society only functions if the members of that society trust each other. And it seems that more and more we don’t. In our current atmosphere, people tend to see people with different opinions as bad rather than just wrong. They don't trust that their motives are pure, they often assume the worst.

And from a business standpoint, in many cases, we just accept that what we see isn’t what we will get. And we (perhaps rightfully) have a distrust of business; especially large corporate interests.

When we buy something, especially if it seems like a good deal, we expect there is more to the story. We don’t WORRY that we are missing something, we EXPECT that we are missing something.

On the other hand, in some ways the trust has actually improved. I don't think any of us imagined people would be willing to send money to a faceless person on the other side of the world to buy some used item. But that's exactly what eBay did to us. And it has had a ripple effect across industry. We have no choice but to trust each other in many of our interactions today. And perhaps that has worked to offset the other things. 

At Audiomover, we get calls from people all the time who seem to want little more than reassurance. People feeling like they need to be more educated on what we do so they can be sure they get what they expect. We get questions like, “are both sides of the tape included in the price.” To me, that question shouldn’t have to be asked. But to many people, it’s an obvious question because they might not be getting what they expect.

As the owner of Audiomover I take our responsibility very seriously. From the day I digitized the first customer’s tape almost twenty years ago, I have worked tirelessly to make sure that customers get what they expect. And hopefully, more than they expect. In our case, the picture matches the product. And if for some reason it doesn’t, we will fix or replace it so it does.

Success in today’s business world is often tied to that factor, focusing on the customer and their expectations.