I am not downloading an app
to buy a candy bar.

The email to all employees was very upbeat, and used a week's worth of exclamation points: "Our newly-remodeled snack-room is now open! Stop by on your break!" It ended with: "A vendor rep is on-site to explain about downloading the app and setting up an account!"

Confused but curious, I waited for the crowd to dwindle, then went downstairs to see what's new in the snack-room. Bright colors. Bigger selection. The candies and chips are on an open shelf now, instead of behind glass in a vending machine. Coke and apple juice are in a fridge, which you can open to grab whatever you want. 

To prevent people from simply grabbing and leaving, a sign on the wall announces that the snack-room is now under surveillance. Cameras are mounted in two corners of the ceiling.

As promised, a vendor rep was there, eager to explain how the system works. He had very perfect hair, and wore a very nice suit, which seemed out of place among the Ding Dongs and Corn Nuts.

Once you've downloaded the app, and linked your candy-bar-account to your bank account, you make purchases by flashing your fingerprint to a device on the wall.

"Seems very Star Trek," I said, but mostly I just nodded as the happy junk food salesman talked.

The new technology is doubtless great for his company — no more vending machines, no more $1.75 refunds when something goes wrong, no more coins and cash to handle and count.

But also, no purchases by visitors and guests in the building, and fewer impulse sales, unless you want every Mounds bar you buy to be on your bank statement.

I asked the chipper chips and snacks guy, "Can I buy a candy bar with … you know, money?"

"Actually, no," he said. "Nothing in this room accepts coins or currency, only swipes and fingerprints." From his proud tone of voice, seems this info was supposed to dazzle me.

"So lemme get this straight. If I want a sack of potato chips, and I only have money, I'm out of luck?"

"No problem!" he said cheerfully. "You can purchase anything in this room with your fingerprint, and if you haven't yet downloaded the app, our machines still accept debit or credit cards."

Oblivious to the look on my face, he went on and on about how easy the app is, and how to connect it to your bank account, and how to register your fingerprints for the quickest, most convenient purchases. "So, are you ready to download the app?"

"No," I said. "I am not downloading an app to buy a candy bar." And then I wandered out of the room and back to my desk, shell-shocked and adrift in this 21st century.

I've never had nor wanted a smart phone, so I'm out of the loop on apps and thumbprints and such. I've grudgingly grown accustomed to the on-line tracking that makes Google and Microsoft wildly profitable, but when tech is tracking what breath mints and sparkling water you prefer, that's crazy.

And it's not only in the snack-room at work. This system reduces costs (but not prices), and collects consumer data, so it's the way everything in capitalism will work. Soon, this is how you'll buy a hammer at the hardware store, or have pizza delivered at home. Oh brave new world, that has such apps in it.

Well, I'm never connecting my bank info to software from the no-name outfit that stocks Snickers and Slim Jims at work. Guess I'll lose some weight, because I'm not going back to the snack-room.

But that's just me, being a wacky old Luddite. Seems I'm the only employee in the building who preferred the old way, where machines traded quarters and dollar bills for candy and Coke. Everyone else has downloaded the app and registered their fingerprints.

Republished 4/6/2024   


  1. That's absurd, to exclude the option to pay in cash. And even HORRIFIC when you consider this vending machine company requires your fingerprint AND a link to your bank account! I'm surprised they don't also record your appearance in the snack room. What's to stop them?

    - Zeke Krahlin

    1. The article is from five years ago, but all my recent jobs have had similar snack set-ups, and always cameras watching to catch cheaters. You're on camera most times you're in public. There are cameras in public restrooms, pointed at the sinks for now, but eventually there'll be cameras over the urinals and every toilet.

    2. I'm not sure why but the ebbing of the outrage over this is one of the scariest parts of modern society to me.

    3. It's all very 1984, ain't it. Amazing what people will put up with, if the bastards say it prevents crime, or something's a gateway drug, or the immigrants will take your job, whatever. Trouble is, it takes decades to figure out it's all lies, and by then we're just cranky old men.

    4. I'm glad I was out of the workforce before this shit started. In any case, I always brought my own snacks. I learned early that if I kept a basket of those Halloween mini bars on my desk, people would stop by and let me know what was going on around the office.


    5. Definitely, bring your own snacks. And share them. I always have a candy dish; it brings people by often enough to get to know their names, but they don't loiter long.

      And the prices in the snack room on Millionaire's Island, lordy! If I'd kept that job, I might've started selling better snacks at better prices from my desk. $2.95 for a couple of Twinkies? My ass.


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