By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The first day of the new year is always a bit of an eye-opener when new laws and regulations take effect, sometimes with unintended consequences.

You may experience one of those next week when you make your first trip of 2013 to the supermarket.

Listen to Keller @ Large 

As of January 1, food stores will no longer be required to put price tags on their items. Instead, they can put those electronic price scanners in their stores, putting the burden on the shopper to scan the price before they get to the checkout.

Less work for the store owners, they say, and high-tech convenience for customers. Or, is it?

I am not a Luddite when it comes to our new world of gadgets taking over tasks humans used to do.

With all due respect to my local bank tellers, I do not miss having to interact with them every time I want to cash or deposit a check. Long live ATMs!

But here’s the problem with our increasing reliance on electronic helpers – they don’t always work.

Twice in the past couple of weeks I have tried to pay for parking in a downtown Boston garage by swiping my credit card, and twice I have been forced to back up, pull over, and get human help because the machines don’t work. Yes, Boston Common garage, this means you.

If you’ve ever tried to use the automated checkout machines in your local supermarket, you know exactly how frustrating this can be.

The Big Y supermarket chain pulled its automated checkouts last year because of mounting customer complaints. Now I see some stores are installing so-called tunnel scanners where you put all your stuff on a conveyor belt and the machine automatically scans it.

I’m sure that process will be flawless.

Progress is unstoppable, and our thirst for high-tech gizmos is apparently unquenchable. I get it. But if your gizmos don’t work, believe me, I’m going to think twice about spending my money with you again.

So merchants, you may want to think twice before you prioritize speed and cost-savings over service.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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