************************************** This is a silly story about the most stupid interaction I have had with a piece of technology that’s supposed to make life easier, and it all starts at the grocery store.The closest supermarket to my house is a Giant(ironically, a medium-sized one). It’s nearby, well-stocked, price-competitive, and generally well-run, so my family does most of our grocery shopping there. One major feature for us is the chain’s SCAN-IT service: a handheld scanner, or an app you can put on your phone, that allows you to check out and bag your own items as you go. Pretty convenient, as far as it goes, except for one major flaw: the system apparently cannot do basic arithmetic, such as determining that two is in fact less than seven. Scan-It and the honor systemThe Scan-It app is straightforward to use. You load it up on your phone while on the store’s Wi-Fi network and point your phone camera at the barcodes on the things you want to buy. The store has scales throughout the produce section where you can weigh your fruit and vegetables and print a label to scan. For loose items such as bagels or muffins, the bakery has centralized barcodes hanging on signs.
Off I trotted to customer service with my arm full of veggies. The assistant manager at the desk laughed that I would be audited over two items, then got a scanner and went through the audit process. That’s when we ran into trouble.The employee interface verified that my cart contains two (2) items. She scanned both. It verified that those two items were ones I had scanned. And then it told her that she needed to scan five more items to complete the audit, because the audit requires seven items to be scanned.
Trying to get the software to recognize that you cannot scan seven items when a fewer items have been purchased was, it turns out, a special kind of purgatory. She tried every kind of reset and override available to her, but no luck. The audit would not complete and resolve until she scanned seven items. No single item could be scanned multiple times, but she couldn’t exit or restart the transaction until resolving the audit. Basically, it launched into a failure loop where every attempt to resolve one error triggered the other error. We gave up on the audit, and she tried to scan my items at the register for purchase, but my rewards card could not be used on a transaction because there was an open, pending audit on my account.
. Walmart and other major retailers are
ways to eliminate the bottleneck at the register by removing registers. A system like the one I encountered at Giant, though,