I had to get a part for the failed garbage disposal. For reasons beyond the explanatory powers of this blog, I will just say that I ended up at a store I don’t normally attend. I don’t want to name the store directly, but I will say that it was a sort of “depot” where you could buy items for your home. I’m sure that many of their stores are stellar and are attended to by faithful employees who put the customer first. The one by my house is run by “the Others”. So, yeah. I don’t really go there that often.
But there I was, picking up a few supplies: a single gang outlet box, a switch, a few switch covers, etc. Soon I would have a functional garbage disposal in our kitchen so that we can jam whole ears of corn down the drain and watch them dance. I was excited about the forward momentum of my home repair project and was eager to leave. Naturally, I headed toward the contractor checkout because there’s never a line. Plus, there’s usually a pot of coffee on the Bunn-o-matic. Coffee tastes better when you’re surrounded by lumber. Just ask Bob Vila.
On my way to the contractor checkout, a helpful sales clerk wearing an orange apron approached me and said “there’s no waiting in aisle one”, to which I said “ok, thanks.” What she failed to mention (and rightly so, I guess) is that aisle one is one of those automated do-it-yourself checkouts, also known as U-SCAN. Often, stores will present the U-SCAN as a convenience for the customer, where I actually see it as an inconvenience. I’ve had bad luck at the u-scan, especially compared to my beautiful wife who seems to bat 1,000 every time. She is also luckier at the U-SCAN register, which may be due in part to her mad baseball skillz.
“Right over there, sir” says the clerk. She was most helpful and very cheerful. My mood started to shift when I saw that HAL 9000 would be my checkout clerk and not the helpful cheerful human who pointed me toward the machine. Ah well. I said (probably not a good idea) “Oh, I thought it would be a real human, not Windows 95”. I was being sarcastic, and that’s never good because it leaves the impression that you are a grumpy customer. I wasn’t grumpy, just a bit disappointed because I felt duped into the U-SCAN checkout.
The sales clerk interpreted my disappointment as frustration with this new fangled technology. She explained — in a very slow, soothing, calm voice — that this is JUST LIKE when you checkout, only you pass stuff over the barcode scanner instead of the cashier. I interrupted and said “oh, I know, I just…” to which she continued to explain that “you don’t need to WORRY, SIR… you pay at the end with your CREDIT CARD with this MACHINE… just like for real.” I said “Okay, thanks…” as I had a hard time getting the u-scan to recognize a UPC symbol. Like any normal human being, I tried pushing it across the scanner faster and with more oomph, but that only prompted the sales clerk to say “Sir, would you like me to scan your items?” I must have come across as a neanderthal who just found out that there’s this thing called America On-Line.
I completed my transaction (with her help) and was on my merry way. No, not merry. Frustrated. This store saved money by having one person do the work of four people. Then again, maybe the customer (me) wins because the customer (me) doesn’t understand basic technology like the internet (Al Gore) and the universal parcel code (UPC).
That’s why I avoid the U-SCAN it at most stores. I like the idea of being able to talk to a person, see how they’re doing, try to give them a sense that a customer appreciates their work, etc.
And I do appreciate her desire to help me scan my items.
If a person obviously can’t operate a U-SCAN it at a home improvement store, should they let the customer walk out with advanced electrical equipment that they obviously plan on installing themselves?