Whenever I go to a Manhattan Whole Foods on a whim there’s a 50% chance I pivot, turn around and leave. It’s the lines. They make IKEA lines on a Sunday look tame. Apparently everyone thinks to shop at the Union Square and Columbus Circle locations at the exact same time. We’ve all wondered if it’s worth it just for that one item you can’t easily get elsewhere. Of course, it’s a testament to the products they sell and the service they provide that we endure it (they apologized after I complained in a foursquare check-in).
Sometimes I turn it into a game. The gamble of whether the express or the large basket line will be faster. You’re thrilled when you’re right and you’re frustrated with every passing minute when you’re wrong.
Without giving it much thought I’ve said the solution was self checkout, especially during the lunchtime rush. No-brainer right? Everyone takes their soup and sandwich and pays for it themselves. Except, I’ve used two self checkouts recently with no success whatsoever. The problem? Poor user interface design. In an effort to prevent shrinkage and possibly to confuse zombies from buying food during the Zombieapocalypse, it seems that the modern efforts at self checkout are overly complicated. There are even a few markets removing self-checkout machines altogether. I wonder why?
I understand wanting to prevent theft, but chances are if someone is going to steal something they aren’t going to swipe their own credit card only to covertly not scan a candy bar. They’ll simply put the candy bar in their pocket and walk out in the first place.
One problem is the system of weights and measurements used to ensure what you’ve scanned is placed in the bag. It makes no sense to me. If I’ve scanned it, why should it matter where I put it? In the case of a 12 pack of soda, I’m going to carry it by hand or place it on a cart which is guaranteed to screw up that system. As I write this, I’m wondering the actual purpose of this requirement.
In the first of my recent experiences I tried self checkout with a single box of candy to avoid a long line. I don’t know what went wrong. One box, that’s it. I got some kind of error that required assistance. It said for me to wait for someone. I did. No one came. I really wanted that candy so I got back on the line. I wasn’t thrilled.
The second time was during the recent snowstorm. I’m cold, my feet are soaked from the slush, and I’m just trying to grab some essentials to wait out the storm. Magically, there’s some kind of weight issue that requires someone to come over. My patience is pretty limited at that point. You’re talking about someone who is in such a hurry they’d rather just scan it and bag it themselves to get the heck out of there. What happened after is for another blog post…
I guess Whole Foods is right. For now, we can’t even build a self-checkout that is easy to use. Their color coded line system will have to do. Looks like I need to buy more comfortable shoes and wait for the Siri-like voice to say Register, 17.