Computer says no

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
David Walliams played Carol Beer, who used the catchphrase "computer says no" on Little Britain.

"Computer Says No", or the "Computer says no attitude", is the popular name given to an attitude seen in some public-facing organisations where the default response to a customer’s request is to check with information stored on or generated by a computer, and then make decisions based on that, often in the face of common sense.

There may also be an element of deliberate unhelpfulness towards customers and service-users, whereby more could be done to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome, but is not.[1]

The name gained popularity through the British sketch comedy Little Britain.[2]

Little Britain[edit]

In Little Britain, "Computer Says No" is the catchphrase of the character Carol Beer (played by David Walliams), a bank worker and later holiday rep and hospital receptionist, who always responds to a customer's enquiry by typing it into her computer and responding with "Computer Says No" to even the most reasonable of requests. When asked to do something aside from asking the computer, she would shrug and remain obstinate in her unhelpfulness, and ultimately cough in the customer's face.[3] The phrase was also used in the Australian soap opera Neighbours in 2006 as a reference to Little Britain.[4]


The "Computer Says No" attitude often comes from larger companies that rely on information stored electronically. When this information is not updated, it can often lead to refusals of financial products or incorrect information being sent out to customers.[2] These situations can often be resolved by an employee updating the information; however, when this cannot be done easily, the "Computer Says No" attitude can be viewed as becoming prevalent when there is unhelpfulness as a result.[5] This attitude can also occur when an employee fails to read human emotion in the customer and reacts according to his or her professional training[6] or relies upon a script.[7] This attitude also crops up when larger companies rely on computer credit scores and do not meet with a customer to discuss his or her individual needs, instead basing a decision upon information stored in computers.[8] Some organisations attempt to offset this attitude by moving away from reliance on electronic information and using a human approach towards requests.[9]

"Computer Says No" happens in a more literal sense when computer systems employ filters that prevent messages being passed along, as when these messages are perceived to include obscenities. When information is not passed through to the person operating the computer, decisions may be made without seeing the whole picture.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bird, Jackie (20 December 2009). "Computer Says No but We Need Our Say". Sunday Mail. Retrieved 12 January 2018 – via Free Online Library.
  2. ^ a b Bank accounts. "Who to blame when 'computer says no'?". Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  3. ^ "Episode 3.1". Little Britain. Series 3. Episode 1. 17 November 2005. BBC. BBC 1.
  4. ^ "Neighbours Episode 5023 from 2006". Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  5. ^ Peachey, Kevin (2009-06-17). "When the bank's computer says no". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  6. ^ Kane, Pat (2015-11-03). "Professionals, your time is up, prepare to be sidelined by tech". New Scientist. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  7. ^ Lythe, Ruth. "The lives wrecked because COMPUTER SAYS NO: Major report reveals human toll of inflexible customer service by banks and insurers". This is Money. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  8. ^ "Mortgages: 'Computer says no' issues hitting the self-employed". The Scotsman. 14 August 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Planners' move from 'computer says no' response is welcome". Mid-Devon Gazette. Archived from the original on 2016-02-20. Retrieved 2016-01-23 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).
  10. ^ 18:57, 15 Feb 2007 Updated 14:04, 12 Jan 2013. "'Computer says no' to rude word". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2016-01-23.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)