Friday, December 02, 2005

It sucks being a consumer these days

I’ve got two pet peeves I’d like to discuss for a moment. They’ve been rattling around in my mind for quite some time and I don’t know why I haven’t written about them yet.

Ok.. Let’s start with the easy one. Almost every store that has been built since about 1975 has two front glass doors. If you look, you will see this to be true. I ask you a simple question. If you have two doors, why is that inevitably one of them is locked tight? This is the case almost everywhere I go and it doesn’t make me happy at all.

First of all, if you were only going to use one door, why did you spend the money to have a second one? Secondly, if you are running a business your primary goal is to have happy customers and let me tell you something, having them struggle with doors does not make the best first impression.

Let’s think about the logic of having two doors. And here is probably where I get most angry. In America we have this unaccepted rule when walking and driving that we always stay to the right in two way traffic situations. This comes into play when walking on the sidewalk, driving your car on a two lane road, using a shopping cart, when you are a waiter going into a kitchen, essentially it happens everywhere. It’s a rule and if you don’t follow it, you are an ignorant idiot in my book. So, that takes us to the door deal. When you walk into a store with two doors, you would naturally use the door to the right, same goes for your way out. That would mean that both doors should be operational. In this case, all shoppers would be able to use the portal with no hassle or stress. But of course that’s not the case at all when one door is locked. Not only will you choose the incorrect door 50% of the time, but if there is traffic coming the other way you will have to take the time to work out who should go through first and that’s simply a waste of time.

There is simply no reason why a store should keep one door locked other than pure laziness. I can’t imagine more heat or air conditioning would be let out/in. I can’t imagine any reason at all that would mandate this waste. So, I complain about it every time I go into or out of a store and it’s getting to be a total pain in the ass. If you own a store or work in one that has 2 doors, open them both please.

So my second peeve is a complex one to describe since there are so many variations of the problem. I will instead describe the problem and leave the examples to you as an exercise.

A while ago someone thought of a really cool idea. They thought that at the point of sale, it would be really smart to allow people to swipe their credit/debit card in a reader so they could enter their pin or sign while the cashier is bagging or ringing stuff up, or whatever. The idea was to speed up the check out process and make the user experience more fluid and painless. Well, leave it to us to fuck that up.

Can you tell me the accepted system for these machines? Every one at every store is different. Not to mention that a small number of them simply don’t work and have tape covering them up with hand written signs on them that say “please hand card to cashier”. At Best Buy you run your card through the machine and then hand it to the cashier for them to type in your info -- this one is odd since it apparently adds work for the consumer with no gain at all. Some machines only do debit, some only credit, some you have to wait until everything is added up, some you can do before the cashier even begins.

My problem is that because of this fragmentation, the user experience is actually worse than if there was no machine at all. Every store I go to, I need to conduct a short Q and A with the cashier about the usage of the machine and the local customs. Fuck it, just rip the damn things out and let me hand you my card already. What a fuck up!

out the examples

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