Risk Management

Has Technology Made Us Careless?

The Toronto airport check-in counter is approached by a man who says “Good morning!” Can you please check my bag in to Cancun and get me on the flight from Winnipeg? Although a little surprised at the request, she politely replied “I’m sorry sir.” Although I can check you in for your flight to Winnipeg, your bag will need to be with you. Your bag cannot be sent to Cancun. The man smiles and says, “But it was last time!””.

I wish this was a joke story. However, this story is based upon a true event. My family consisted of me, my husband and our 3 children who recently travelled from Toronto, Canada to Winnipeg. I find domestic flights more comfortable as there are no border crossings or customs. With the exception of a flight delay or cancellation, things usually run smoothly.

My email showed that the flight had been delayed by about an hour on our morning flight from Toronto to Winnipeg. It was not a big deal. We arrived at the airport on time.

Anybody who has been on a recent trip knows how different things have become in the past few decades. The majority of the process has been delegated to the “customer”. I wait for the day when I get told that I need to fly the plane.

Anyways, we checked in online the night before and I printed our boarding passes. I printed out our baggage tags using the self-serve terminal at the airport. We then applied the tags ourselves. The airport staff had very little to do. We went quickly through the baggage screening and handed all five bags over to the staff. After about 2 1/2 hours, we boarded the plane to land in Winnipeg. So far so good.

Winnipeg just completed a high-tech new airport. We moved on to baggage claim and were close to the area where the bags were going off the carousel.

Our bags were quickly found in four of them. Then, we waited. My son, who likes to play pranks on his little sister, joked that “Your bag got to Cancun!” It was funny, but we realized it was a joke. However, when the light flashed indicating that there were no more bags we began to wonder about the fate of the suitcase.

To make a long tale short, we filed a “missing bag” report and left the airport carrying 4 of the 5 bags. My 10-year-old daughter was very upset, but she handled the situation quite well. I was grateful that her suitcase had been found and was not mine or my 17-year-old daughter’s. It was only late that night that we found out that the suitcase had been shipped to Cancun. It would be taken to Toronto on the next day and then to Winnipeg. We had two options: pick it up or have it delivered directly to our hotel.

In one of our conversations, I mentioned that I had sent my mom a package from Toronto to Winnipeg. It somehow ended up in Halifax. We did not get a call the next day. I called them late in the afternoon to find out if the suitcase had not arrived in Toronto or Winnipeg. The suitcase was not located at the time. We were finally told that the suitcase had been located in Halifax at 6:30pm on our second day.

It would be delivered to Toronto on the next day, and then to Winnipeg. I wasn’t sure what to believe at this point, but we all agreed to stop talking about distant travel destinations. We were able to get a call the next morning confirming that the bag was at the Winnipeg airport. We made arrangements to have the bag delivered to the cottage where we were staying about one-half hour outside of Winnipeg. The suitcase arrived that evening.

I was struck by the incident. What is the likelihood of something like this happening in our technological age?

Technology has made our lives easier and many of our routine tasks more efficient. It has its limitations. Human error is possible when humans are involved. My daughter’s suitcase got lost somewhere along the way.

You’ll often hear people say that they are only human. I make errors.” This is why we still need to review our work. Technology has made us careless to an extent. Technology has given us false security, and we forget that tools are just tools.

An excellent example is the spell-checker. The errors it can catch are very limited.

I can still recall years ago typing essays on an electric typewriter. I was careful not to make mistakes. I knew that if I did, it would mean I had to erase the error and re-type it. It would leave a hole in my paper or create a smudge, which meant that I had to retype the entire page. It was even worse if there was carbon paper in the middle (to make a duplicate), Although we’ve made great strides in computers and keyboards, I will be the first to admit that my typing skills have deteriorated and I now rely heavily on the “Backspace”, “Delete” keys.

My experience over the years has taught me the importance double-checking everything I do. I always double-check what I write, no matter how detailed or short, before I send it.

It is now easier than ever to make mistakes and relax with technology. As you can see, mistakes in the suitcase example resulted not only in inconvenience but also aggravation and wasted time and money. These errors were minor and only temporary.

But mistakes can lead to expensive and sometimes even fatal consequences.

Technology has its limits. You should take a few more minutes to double-check.

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