Saturday, May 28, 2011

Simple usability and process errors are less excusable

I was at the local Shaw’s grocery store yesterday and I noticed a few design problems with the register that seemed quite foolish (easy and cheap to fix). The first was that when the cashier scanned in my green cabbage, the price per pound was wrong. It was correct on the shelf, so there is no excuse not to update the price database. One of their competitors has a policy that if it scans wrong, it’s free. Too bad I wasn’t there.

The second problem showed up when she had to take off the cabbage from the order. She couldn’t just hit a key (backspace, delete, cancel, whatever). She had to put it back on the scale and subtract it while weighing it again. I wound up getting an extra penny off because it weighed 3.32 pounds going in and 3.33 pounds coming out.

They were also out of a product that was on sale. This is a common inventory problem at low margin companies like grocery stores. But this was a house brand that was on sale for a whole month and only through coupons mailed to loyalty card holders. It seems that they should not have run out for all of those reasons. House brands are easy to order and have higher margins. The sale still had three more weeks to go, so it’s not like it was last minute. Loyalty card holders are the best customers so you really don’t want to dissatisfy them. And it was only a tube of ground beef – not exactly a rare type of product. This is Boston’s high end grocery store too!

And yet . . .