Bad Service: Blame the Computer

How long should it take to check out one item plus the second “free” item that comes with the first? Forget how long the line is. I mean once you hand it to the clerk behind the counter. Two minutes, three at the outside. On this Saturday night over 20 minutes. And if I was not reasonably good doing arithmetic in my head I would have been overcharged by 30%.

Here I am in one of the national office supply stores. You would think that the customer experience would be important to this company. I have no need to shop here since there are plenty of alternatives. Interestingly, the workers in the store felt the same way I did. However, they were no match for the computer system.

I am sure there are many benefits to the current systems. They help companies quickly track what is selling, help control inventory and even take away the necessity for the employee to have the basic math skills need to make change should someone actually use cash. They do everything but get the customer quickly and happily out of the store.

Here was the complexity that threw the system. I went to buy ink for our home printer. I came armed with empty ink cartridges — you get $3 for each one you recycle — and a card worth $10.90 that the company sent me for buying so much stuff there. They must really like me I thought. They even had a deal where you got some paper for free just for purchasing more ink.  They did everything they could to get me into that store.   I just couldn’t get out.

The computer started out doing the right thing. It registered the right price for the ink and showed $0.00 when the paper was scanned. It was the returned ink cartridges and the card that broke the computercamel’s back. Once the clerk tried to apply the discount for the ink, the price of the paper got added back. Then she subtracted the $10.90 and thought she was done. She even gave me a big smile. I pointed out that the amount was wrong. Huh, she pondered. Quick call to the manager. Oh, I can fix this and she subtracted the price of the paper (which was supposed to be free). Unfortunately for all of us the computer spreads the savings from the returned ink cartridge across all items, even the ones you are not supposed to be paying for.  It did not take off the full price of the paper and I was still paying too much. Now this was a problem because once the discount card had been entered there is “no going back”.

Supermanager to save the day. He looks puzzled. He explains to me that the computer did what it normally does…as if that should be the end of the story. I do the simple math for him and explain that they still owe me several dollars. More puzzlement. The customer seems to make sense but the computer did what it does and the discount card was applied so there is no going back… oh no, what to do????

Well it turns out that after several minutes of thinking you can void everything, start over, do it a little differently and actually come to the correct total. If only the machine would take the credit card that it took moments ago for the incorrect transaction.

Only one thing to do now. Pay with cash, give exact change and accept their apologies.

The VISA check card commercial makes it seem as if technology makes everything move smoothly. Yet I yearn for the simple days when a cashier, not a clerk, would not have screwed it up in the first place but if something went wrong would just reach into the register till and make it right.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: