August 31, 2006

Human factors at the grocery store

Filed under: Greater Boston, Software Blog — marcstober @ 1:02 pm

Universal Hub points out some frustration about the credit-card devices at Shaws.

I remember that one day at the Allston store (I’m a software developer so I remember this stuff :)), everything was chaos because they weren’t taking debit cards, and taking credit cards required manual approval by swiping a special “magic” card after swiping your card (and they only had a couple such “magic” cards on the premises so managers were running from register to register to approve each transaction). Next time I shopped there, they had the new machines with the Yes/Enter button issues. I figure either their old vendor for some reason dropped them without notice, and they went with the first replacement they could find; or else this was a planned transition gone badly.

This issue, really, I think is not one of software but hardware (or the hardware/software relationship). Theoretically you can touch “Yes” on the touchscreen–I’ve actually gotten this to work before they started with the tape and notes–but the touchscreens are so flighty that it hardly ever reads your response (or reads it as “No”), so the only reliable way to complete the transaction is to use the Enter button.

Stop & Shop is hardly better; while at least the button labels match the prompts, their units have a row of “soft keys” below the display and the prompt is formatted as if it’s asking you to touch the soft key below “Yes” rather than the “Yes” button on the bottom row of the keypad.