Self Checkout

Either I’ve been really unlucky or society just arrived at some plateau on the technology adoption curve for grocery self checkout. It seems to me that it used to be only once in a while that the line for self checkout was held up by some poor soul that couldn’t figure the thing out, but the last few times I’ve been in Shaws, i’ve been held up as people take forever to checkout their handful of items.

Its just not that hard! Scan items, scan shaws card, hit finish. Hit Ok at the annoying “check under your cart” prompt. Click the picture of the mechanism with which you’re going to pay. Swipe card. Done.

As someone with some interest in usability, I wonder what it is that leaves these people gaping open mouthed at the screen, struggling to comprehend the current prompt or messsage, but I feel like it would be rude to mosey up behind someone to see what is going on. I hope Shaws is doing something to capture the state where input to the machine is paused for some period of time(along with video tape of the user) to figure out what the stumbling block is.

I wish the self checkout wrangler would be more proactive about helping people who appear stuck – like at the airport where airline employees try to hold your hand through self check in.

As I’m not a patient person, while I’m fuming in line behind these slowpokes, I’m imagining some device where the self-checkout community can vote inept people back to the regular checkout lines. Can we make that happen?

Another thought – why can’t we all wait in one line for the cluster of self checkout machines? It seems to me that would be the most fair approach because now one has to not only judge how much stuff a person has, but also profile for computer aptitude when getting in line. Perhaps that’s un-American? I remember a couple of years ago waiting in line to use the ticket machines in Union Station (New Haven) trying to straddle a couple machines so that I could get the next one and having some lady ask me “Are you in this line?” to which I replied “We’re all going the same place lady”. She wasn’t amused.

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