I love shopping at Sobeys. My local store knows me and my kids by name, they know about what we’re up to. They give us stickers and balloons and hugs and everything that really brings the experience up a notch. The food is great. The staff is friendly and all is well. Except those stupid self-service machines.

Now you might ask, “if you hate the machines so much, and you love the people so much, why do you use the machines?” It’s simple. I have kids. I’m in a rush. I need to get in and get out and nothing allows you to do that like the self-serve kiosk. NOW, there are a couple of superstar cashiers that I will ALWAYS go to because they’re quick, but if you have kids, you know that you need to get in and get out. Now, back to these machines.

I can only assume that the people who designed them have never used them. If they did, they would have designed them differently. Here’s what I mean. When you first scan an item, the machine wakes up and says, “OH SHIT, WELCOME TO SOBEYS, DO YOU HAVE AN AIR MILES CARD?” Now, I answer no…because I DON’T have an air miles card. But this machine DOES NOT care about my answer because when I say, “Ok, I’m ready to pay” the machine has a seizure and says, “WAIT! WAIT! STOP! Are you SURE that you don’t have an air miles card?”

Do me a favor. Don’t EVER, EVER make your customer repeat themselves. It makes it seem that you don’t care about them because…you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t ask them the same stupid question twice. But wait, there’s more.

Say, you’ve got some produce you want to purchase. It’s got that handy dandy 4 digit number that still amazes me. It amazes me that we’ve all just AGREED that kiwi is 4030. ALL of us. Anyways, I digress. So, I throw a couple of kiwis on the scale and say produce. I pump in the handy dandy 4030 and when I hit done, I know that it’s going to ask me how many I have so I begin to move my finger automatically to where the 3 is located so that I can tell the machine that I have purchased 3 kiwis. But the machine has a different idea. Because the keypad, which is EXACTLY that same as it was on the first screen when it was asking for the code, MOVES.

That’s right. Everything just sort of…shuffles over a few pixels and the button you tried to touch is no longer there. I know, these are some serious first world, white people problems. But I’m a first world white person shopping in a grocery store. So I expect that the people who are making these machines and these operating systems to recognize that I’m probably not going to be pumped with an interface that looks like it was designed by three blind mice.

There are two lessons in this whole tirade. The first is that if you are making a product, make it work. I can only assume that these machines cost a lot of time and money to make. I can only assume they were tested. So, somewhere along the way, someone should have stopped and said, “wait, this is stupid. Why would we make customers go through this? We should change this.” But no one did. It’s either laziness or incompetence and I don’t think that the people who make such precise machines are particularly incompetent.

But the second lesson in all of this is equally important. That store is still one of my favorite stores. I still shop there and will continue to shop there because the staff and customer service is second to none in an industry that seems to care very little about its customers. I frequent “THAT OTHER STORE” as well, pretty regularly, but the mood and the tone is just not the same and that’s something that is set, top down and bottom up by a good management team. The fact is that you can get away with mistakes if you have good people who do a good job.