By Luke Haines

For all our complaining about society’s worrying slide towards fascism, it’s worth pointing out that the modern world still gets some things right in terms of kindness and tolerance. Take eugenics. Many ancient societies would kill children deemed to be physically or mentally unfit.

These days, we support people with physical disabilities through medical intervention and wheelchair accessible buildings and perhaps bionics in the near future. Meanwhile, if someone is mentally incapable of functioning in normal society, we give them a job in customer service.

I was reminded of this when dealing with a coffee chain’s Twitter feed. Regular readers of my column –  and hello to you both! – will remember that British coffee chain Costa recently changed their self-serve vending machines so that they printed a little slip of barcoded paper. I objected to this on the grounds that the last thing the world needs is to waste more paper or generate more litter.

In the spirit of this, I employed the only option available to an aggreived consumer in the modern world and tweeted Costa Coffee:

Last night, I received a response.

There was a pretty glaring flaw in that explanantion, which I pointed out.

I’m yet to hear back.

I’ve spent the last eighteen hours wondering what it all meant. Ignoring the fact that some anonymous spambot had “liked” Natalie’s reply, what could she have had in mind?! Every physical transaction I’ve ever made has involved going to a counter and paying. I dare say if I bought a Ferrari, at some point I’d have to approach a desk with a credit card. (It would then be declined, and I’d make my getaway in the nearby Ferrari. Check and mate, supercar dealerships…)

My whole objection was spawned from the fact that I used to get coffee from the machine and take it to the counter to pay without the paper slip. The counter isn’t the issue, here, “Natalie” ! It never has been!

How else am I supposed to go about getting coffee, anyway? Theft?! It’s one of the few items that’s nearly impossible to steal –  a flimsy container of scalding hot liquid which changes the colour of your clothes if you spill it. What kind of genius master thief has been spiriting coffee out of roadside establishments? And if this caffeinated phantom has been stealing so many coffees that Costa have had to change the way their machines work, the culprit should be easy to find – just look for a magician who hasn’t slept since August.

Maybe “Natalie” isn’t working in customer service and is in fact being held prisoner, her only means of rebellion to hint that I should steal the coffee, bypassing the counter and slowly whittling away at the profits of a corporation that keeps her chained to a desk. Except that even if I did that, the machine would STILL print a little paper ticket.

The only time I don’t go to a counter to pay in a traditional manner is in places with self-service checkouts. Is Natalie trying to tell me that in those places, the automated machine wouldn’t print a useless ticket? If so, it would seem that costa trust me to ring in my own coffee, but that this process is beyond the reach of people who work in businesses that sell coffee. Madness.

I doubt I’ll ever get anywhere in my campaign to eradicate little paper slips from automated coffee machines. I’m entirely sure that there are bigger issues I could concern myself with. But the world has no shortage of windmills to tilt at, so stay tuned. I have a feeling this is only going to get stupider…