Kroger Self Checkout – We Don’t Need No Stinking Usability Testing

uscanbrochure_5_0002.jpgIt was supposed to be a quick in and out at the local Kroger. I usually don’t shop there, but I was looking for an item that two other chains didn’t carry and I thought I would give them a try. The good news is that they had what I wanted. The bad news is that I spent most of my time in the store dealing with their self-checkout registers.

I scanned my item, it registered and I pressed the “Pay” button. The terminal then displayed all the payment options and prompted me to select one. The card reader also has a display and it said “slide your card at any time” which I did. The reader’s display then said “Enter PIN for Debit or press Credit”. I entered my PIN. At that point, it displayed “Waiting on Cashier”.

Huh? I didn’t understand why a cashier was needed not to mention the fact that there was not one to be found. I hit “Cancel” on the register display. At that point, the card reader prompted me once again to slide my card, which I did starting the process again. Once again, it ended with the “Waiting on Cashier” message. I pressed the “Call Cashier” button on the register. A cashier showed up and pointed out that I didn’t select a paytype on the Register.

Not sure whether to blame this on the programmers, the designers, the hardware manufacturer (in this case, Fujitsu) or the usability team (assuming there was one), but clearly, the card reader system should have told the register system that I was using a debit card. It prompted me for it and accepted my pin number. From the user’s perspective, why should I also have to tell the register what pay type I’m using? If that’s not doable (although I don’t see why it wouldn’t be), why couldn’t the card reader instruct me to select a pay type instead of saying”Waiting on Cashier”.  And by the way, there was apparently no notification even sent to said Cashier.

I think self checkout is a great thing for small purchases and it clearly saves companies on labor costs, but when you’re are asking the customer to interface directly with your in-store technology, it’s critical that the process be idiot-proof (not implying that anyone is an idiot). If it’s confusing or frustrating, the customers will stop using it or worse, avoid shopping with you.

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