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A Tacky New Low: Advertising On My Receipt

Newark, New Jersey has never been known for subtlety or grace. My experience at the Newark airport last night, however, reached a new, tacky low.

I had to catch my dinner while waiting for a connecting flight, so I stopped off at the food court to get a stir fry from a little restaurant operated by a company called Flo. I wasn’t able to interact with a human being to place my order at this restaurant, but had to use an iPad instead.

Everything’s digital at the Newark airport these days, because digital is cheaper. Instead of hiring a cook and a server to take orders, the restaurant I went to only had a job for a cook. In fact, that cook had to prepare meals digitally ordered by customers at two restaurants at once, so where there had been four jobs, thanks to automation, there was now only one.

Even the receipt for my meal was digitally delivered, sent to my email. Because Flo regards its Newark airport restaurants as profit centers, rather than as places for people to come together, the company even managed to monetize my receipt.

The receipt was covered in advertisements, for a credit card offered by United Airlines, and for investment products offered by Morgan Stanley.

morgan stanley advertisementAm I going to invest through Morgan Stanley because I saw their cheap advertisement on my receipt? Will I get a credit card with United Airlines as a consequence of their little commercial on the receipt?

No.

Every part of the experience felt tacky, uncaring, and exploitative.

As I walked to my gate, I wondered: Is this what we can expect from the future? Will digital technologies be used to close us off from other human beings, so that we can be delivered more advertisements without distraction?

What’s next? Will my food be cooked with little commercial messages printed on every bite? Will my fork and knife have corporate sponsors?

Newark has managed to transform the excitement of travel into a digital commercial nightmare.

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