Tag Archives: British culture

What Can’t Be Automated

Here’s why it’s important to have smart humans at some point in the chain.

I just received this email from FlowersDirect, a UK online flower delivery service, which I use quite a bit. Too much, as it turns out:

Many thanks for your recent order. However, there appears to be two very similar orders on our system, the first is order xxxx , a ‘thank you Mum’ chocolates and flowers being delivered to Mrs. R. Wagstaff on 26th March 2006. The second is order ref xxxxx, a lilacs & limes Bouquet also being delivered to Mrs. R. Wagstaff on 25th March 2006.

Please could you contact us as soon as possible either via return e-mail or on xxxxxx to either confirm that both orders are required, or that one is surplus to requirement?

Mothering Sunday, for those of you not aware we Brits celebrate our mothers at a different time of year to everyone else, is the last weekend in March. (Another great thing about FlowersDirect is that they remind you of this, more than a month in advance. My Mothering Sunday Miss Rate has declined dramatically since I started ordering from them.)

FdAnyway, they were right. I couldn’t find confirmation of my earlier order so assumed it hadn’t gone through, or I had placed it only in my fevered imagination. In a normal, busy world where everything possible is automated, this excessive ordering on my part would not have been spotted, or might have been spotted but not triggered any employee concern that it was, in their charming phrase, “surplus to requirement”. Most companies would have just gone ahead and delivered two sets of flowers, which might have delighted my mother, and possibly got my brother off the hook, since he could have claimed one of them was his.

But they didn’t. They checked back with me first. After all it would have looked a tad indulgent on my part to have double-bouqueted my mother and would have set a dangerous precedent. (“You gave me two bunches last year! Why not this year? Don’t you love your own mother anymore?”)

So now all I have to decide is which one to keep and which one to cancel. Chocolates and flowers or lilics and limes. Hmmm.