Tuesday, January 15, 2013


So Scout and I stopped into the grocery store to buy a couple extra things for her lunch. We got to the checkout area, and decided to use a real lane instead of self-serve, since cashiers are much nicer to me when I have Scout in tow. (When I'm alone, it's self-serve only, unless the guy who looks like he just got out of prison is on duty at my local Kroger, he's alright.)

"Do you have your Kroger card?"

"No, but here, let me type in the number." I grabbed the giant rubber stylus, and poked at the "Alt ID" button, heard the reassuring click... and then nothing. So I poked at it a couple more times, and noticed that the button on the opposite side was occasionally gaining focus, and the language kept switching back and forth between Spanish and English.

"Oh, looks like your touch-screen is misaligned..." she mashed some buttons on the register, "...or something, you should probably shut this lane down until that gets re..."

"Try it now," she interrupted. Poke, poke, poke... Hello, Hola, Hello. Same thing.

"Yeah, I really think it's the touch screen, and..."

"Here, give me all those groceries back," she called to the bagger, and then one at a time voided off each item, and then scanned them all again. Same thing. What followed was a series of continued fiddling with register buttons, voiding, scanning, Holas and Hellos, followed by calling the manager over.

"If it's just about getting your Kroger points, we can..."

"I don't care about that," I interrupted, uncharacteristically, "but I won't be able to pay if I can't enter my PIN or hit the credit button."

"It was working earlier with my last customer," she said to the manager. The "you broke it" was silent. The manager used his thumb to poke the very right edge of the Alt ID button, and the next screen popped up. Looking amusedly smug, he chucklingly asked what my card number was.

"804," I began. He typed, and 977 came up on the screen. "Yeah, you see the problem now, right?" He rang me up on another register successfully, and they cleared my order off the first register... BUT DID NOT SHUT IT DOWN!

On the way to school, I talked to Scout about reputation capital, e.g., at my own work I would just have to say "I see the problem" and everyone would listen, where to Kroger I'm some random dude with a hairbrained theory who should be dismissed out of hand. We also talked about vendors who want to sell you new doo-dads all the time instead of just making a working system and supporting it.

"They replace these so fast, they hardly ever break down, and when they do, no one has any idea how to troubleshoot. All so they can make more money, at the expense of their customers."

The total time in the checkout line waiting out their lack of understanding was about 10 minutes, about how late to school we were. How long after I left they stubbornly refused to accept my assessment and annoyed other customers, I can't say.

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