Sunday, April 09, 2006

Clueless at the Self-Checkout

Unless you've been living in some kind of cave (or the Midwest) for the past few years, you've probably noticed the proliferation of self-checkout devices in retail outlets. I think I first noticed them in grocery stores, then in home improvement megavilles, and more recently they've even appeared in a Costco. In general, I definitely approve of the idea of self-checkout. Not only because I prefer to avoid human interaction at all costs, but also because I am generally able to move through the self-checkout more quickly than the... um... checker...person...checkout.

cluelessI'm sure that "generally quicker" would be "always quicker" except for one obstacle: clueless bold people. Most clueless people seem to have some kind of internal mechanism that tells them to avoid "computery" things like the self-checkout, since they're probably too complicated for them to figure out. These are the people that slow down the normal checkout lines with their piles of coupons, last-minute mind-changing, and misplaced credit cards. Unfortunately for us, some clueless people seem to have come equipped without the handy "avoid computery things" feature. They aren't deterred by complicated things, even if it's the same complicated thing that has foiled them the last dozen times they've encountered it.

They stare blankly at the touch screen for 30 seconds between each button press or scanned item. They scan an item then don't place it in the "bagging area." They spend 5 minutes trying to scan a 10 foot beam. They somehow screw something up two seconds in that requires employee assistance. Suddenly the self-checkout isn't so self anymore. Around Christmas I witnessed this phenomenon at the Post Office, when all five people in front of me in line at the "Postal ATM" had to have a postal employee walk them through every step of mailing a package, even touching the buttons on the screen for them. Wowzers.

It is for this reason that I propose the following feature. You know how, in order to legally drive a motorcycle, you have to get a "motorcycle endorsement" on your driver's license? I propose that stores that offer a self-checkout require a similar endorsement in order to use it. The test to obtain the endorsement would require a basic demonstration of touchscreen competency. In addition, one's self-checkout endorsement would be subject to revocation at any time if it became apparent that they were in fact clueless. This way the clueless people stay where they belong—out of my way.

I think it's a pretty good plan.
image sourceCategories: Culture


Anonymous Soini said...

A much easier way than testing and endorsing users is to simply require that the self-checkout user be under 30 years of age.

That's what I'd do, it'd be simple and solve 85% of the slowdowns.

And while we're at it, can we make a separate checkout line for old ladies writing checks?

9:59 AM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Soini said...

Also, that age limit would be a rolling number so as to include those who have grown up with computers, like us, but not lock us out in 5 years.

10:01 AM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger DaButtminster said...

A less controversial solution:

Have several self-checkout lines, some of which are usable by invitation only. The system keeps track of average time/item for each customer and notifies qualifying customers that they are eligible to use the invitation-only lines.

Slowing down the invitation only lines will get your invitation revoked. That way, if a baby boomer gets it figured out, they can move up to the faster line and not be stuck with their slower peers.

1:59 PM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Amber E. Gulmatico said...

I am a completely computer savy person and have been my previous life a checker for a grocery store for a year and a half so I tried one of these self-check out things in a California Wal-Mart (I was forced to go there I sware) with my sister who figured that if anyone could do this, it would be me. Alas....she ate some Pringles chips as she was shopping and so the item wasn't the right weight so we were completely stuck until we got help with how to bypass this smartypants computer. My ego was a bit sore afterwards having gotten hung up on a few eaten chips.

3:12 PM, April 17, 2006  

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