the end of my recent holiday stay at Gran Canaria, my fiancee and I came
across a machine that was designed so poorly, it bordered on the
criminal. The machine in question was a small money-changer, placed
right next to vending machines (both of which are operated by the
company AMFM). The combination of vending machine plus money-changer is
a very nice combo for tourists (and pretty much anyone, really)
especially in the environment we found it: the airport on Gran Canaria,
after going through security. Imagine being in the "secured zone", with
a ten euro note and no small change, needing a bottle of water - a
money-changing machine suddenly becomes your best friend (sorry Fido).
How does one turn this scenario from great to awful? One way, of course,
is by having an "out of order" sign on the money-changing machine.
However, while this would make you somewhat bitter, it's what can happen
- not enough to make you really angry. No, what's needed for that is
that the machine steals your money.
If you look at the picture on the right, you'll see a machine that does
exactly that. It's designed in a way that makes it steal money every now
and then. It's not that it consistently short-changes you - that would
be too much and would probably get them in the spotlight of authorities.
No, what the machine does is completely lack proper feedback mechanisms.
It seems that the only bit of feedback incorporated into the machine is
"I've run out of money to hand out to the customer". In other words, the
machine will hand out as much money as it can, up till the amount you
put into it.
How does this amount to stealing? In case you hand it €10 and it only
has €4, that's what you get: €4. And a nice blinking message to tell you
that it owes you €6. Which you're not going to get. In other words, the
machine is telling you "Sucks to be you, doesn't it?".
This in itself is of course so poor design that people should be
spanked. The fact that this machine is located in the secured area of an
airport just aggravates things: nobody that I talked to would take any
responsibility for the machine not working. Instead, the pointed me to
the airport authority ... the office of which was located outside the
secured area. In other words, you need to go through security twice,
to be able to contact them about the problem. And your plane leaves
What should have been done? What would a proper situation look like?
First off, a machine like this should never be allowed to accept money
if it cannot hand out the proper change. That amounts to a proper
feedback mechanism: when change is inserted into the machine, it should
count it, and then it should check available funds against its store,
before accepting any notes. Secondly, there should be no refusing of
responsibility in airports. As is, people are being treated as
second-rate citizens in airports. This is just not the way one should do
business: treat your customers properly, listen to them.