How Many Keystrokes Should It Take To Buy Something?

from the maybe-they're-multi-tasking dept

In true Raymond Babbitt fashion, columnist Peter Cochrane has been out counting the number of keystrokes it takes clerks to punch into various points of sale systems -- and the numbers seem way too high. Whatever happened to simplification? We've heard of computer systems that take fifteen steps to save a file, so perhaps 48 keystrokes to pay for a cup of coffee (with cash) is the new standard. Maybe in this Starbucks-obsessed world, there really are so many different options on a cup of coffee that it should take so long to punch it all into the terminal. Either that or the systems are connected to the internet, and the clerks are "multi-tasking" and instant messaging with their friends.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jared Anderson, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 11:59am

    No Subject Given

    Well what do you expect they dont even sell regular coffee anymore.

     

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  2.  
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    Matthew, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:11pm

    So first people want choices...now they want it si

    Okay...so first off, most people want choices and options. If they feel limited, they don't like it. It really is not easy for a retail clerk to do their job and take dirt from rude customers and soccer moms alike. Really now, we should make their job easier and have the POS as a DIY terminal and let the customer confuse themselves...

     

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  3.  
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    Jose G, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:12pm

    one-key patent

    Ah, amazon has the 1-click patent but do they have the 1-key stroke patent ?

     

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  4.  
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    Rob, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:17pm

    Re: So first people want choices...now they want i

    The bottom line is that nobody likes "people"

     

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  5.  
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    Matthew, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:21pm

    Re: So first people want choices...now they want i

    True...true. We're a society of introverts with digital smarts but no people skills.

     

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  6.  
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    Rikko, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:22pm

    It boils down to companies not spending money on P

    I've seen some pretty bloody awful POS systems in a variety of (large) retail environments. It's unacceptable and just goes to show that companies aren't really paying attention to their front line staff.

    "No no, push F8.. Back up. Ok, now enter code 'G'.. Then F6.. Then 4.. Now enter."

    "Ohhhhh"

    When I was managing a tiny retail store I looked into several POS offerings and none of them really impressed me.

    POS should be a horrific monstrosity to configure initially, and then be a breeze once it's deployed. We're still doing this all wrong.

     

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  7.  
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    Matthew, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:30pm

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    If you want a good laugh...check out the POS at The Good Guys stores. It has not been updated since the 1980's and still has monochrome monitors! Same deal with so many retial stores...they try so hard to cut costs, but could you imagine how much they would save with an intuitive system!?

     

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  8.  
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    lisa, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 1:00pm

    No computer, no sale

    Some time between 1965 and now, stores lost the ability to just trade merchandise for cash. If the computer doesn't recognize the item or can't scan it, then nobody knows what to do.

    The worst part of this is somewhere along the line, consumers started to accept it. I was behind someone trying to buy something with a bar code the scanner couldn't read. The cashier tried about 1,000 times, then called a supervisor who just kept rescanning, too. I moved to another line and about 10 minutes later when I left the store, they were still standing there trying to scan the stupid code.

    I was leaving Wal-Mart once and the "stop thief!" alarm went off because the tag on my package of CD-R's hadn't been deactivated. They checked the slip to see I wasn't a shoplifter then said they had to deactivate the tag.

    I told them they were my CD-R's now and my security tag and left.

     

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  9.  
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    Steve, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 1:02pm

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    I agree completely. Retail is famous for the "save money at any cost" mentality. I have worked with some of the largest and most successful in the world, and it is a common theme. In fact, the more successful they are, the more likely they are to live by the "save money at any cost" philosophy. Successful retailers have a procurement-centric culture and are driven so much by cost cutting through "better" procurement processes, that nobody seems to consider cost cutting and/or making more money through better system design and through better useage of those systems.

     

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  10.  
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    Rob, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 2:23pm

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money


    If you want a good laugh...check out the POS at The Good Guys stores. It has not been updated since the 1980's and still has monochrome monitors! Same deal with so many retial stores...they try so hard to cut costs, but could you imagine how much they would save with an intuitive system!?

    Probably very little. An intuitive system might save a few hours per clerk in training costs, but after the first day, the clerk would be up to speed, and there would be no more benefit.

     

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  11.  
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    cycle003, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 2:35pm

    RE: How Many Keystrokes

    The absolute worst in the airline industry. One would think an airline employee could sell a ticket relatively quickly, but it probably takes hundreds of keystrokes. Of course, this inefficiency is inline with the majority of business models in the airline industry.

     

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  12.  
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    IMOL, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 2:42pm

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    Indeed. The largest problem with retailers upgrading their systems is the sheer scale of the upgrade - when you have 1000 stores with say 5 registers in each store, plus servers, networking hardware etc - then buying the new hardware to support a more modern POS system is the sticking point, not finding or developing the software.
    Of course some retailers have the opposite problem - fewer stores but many more registers - the largest store I implemented a POS at had 168 registers in one store and several more with 80+.

     

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  13.  
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    fuzzmanmatt, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 4:47pm

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    I have six registers in my store, one server, and five stores in town. We just finished upgrading to a POS from 1999 last year. It does its job, but it's not good at it. I know how to manipulate it better than some of the tech support that I call, but for the most part it's just like doing anything else with a modern OS.

     

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  14.  
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    Ryu, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:25pm

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    Well not necisarrily depending on how long it takes, if they could get it done faster, then they could sell more items in a shorter period of time. Right?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 12:19am

    My Supermarket is very good

    I shop at a medium sized super market, with probably five thousand of items. Checkout simply requires scanning of items (and coupons). If I pay with a card, I just have to run it through the card reader and sign the touch screen. Litterally the checkout person might hit one button on the cash register to start the transaction and one after they have scanned all items. After my card scan and I sign, the register automatically prints and cuts my receipt and prints one for checkout girl as a paper confirmation of the transaction and my signature. I am always very impressed!

     

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  16.  
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    Newob, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 3:15am

    Re: My Supermarket is very good

    Now if they could make e-voting machines work as well as automated supermarket checkouts, ...

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 5:14am

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    >

    It's not always about speed. In some retail environments, like grocery - yes, absolutely - but then a grocery POS is thusly optimized and has many less functions than a specialty store POS.

    In a more specialty store - the emphasis is on reasonable speed with high accuracy and lots of functionality like layaways, inventory lookups, returns etc.

     

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  18.  
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    Ron, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 5:44am

    Re: It boils down to companies not spending money

    But you are missing the point...you are trying to manage the exceptions. Add those lay-away and stock look-up features to the slow terminal at the customer service desk so I don't have to wait in line while someone plans their wedding in the express lane!!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 7:31am

    Re: My Supermarket is very good

    I completely agree. My supermarket and indeed most high street stores in the UK have no issue with processing various orders in a matter of seconds, or at worst minutes. This includes electronics retailers, clothes shops, supermarkets, gyms, etc.

    Can anyone actually give me an example of where these systems really fall down and why? Preferrably an example from the UK.

     

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