Friday, May 27, 2011

Retailers: Just Get Me Through the Checkout Line

I had to stop in the local Kmart today. I’m not a regular shopper  but there are one or two items they carry that I sometimes can’t find elsewhere. I quickly made my way through the store and got to the checkout line. After waiting what seemed like forever for the woman ahead of me to get through the check out, the cashier rings up my small purchase and the litany of questions begin:

Would you like to use your credit card today? (My answer – no, thank you.)

Would you like to use your Sears credit card today? (Answer – no, thank you.)

Do you HAVE a Sears credit card? (Answer – No.)

Would you like to open a Sears credit card? (Answer – No.)

Would you like to donate to the March of Dimes? (Answer – No.)

I really don’t like it when it feels like the Inquisition just to get through the checkout line. It’s also a pity that they ask you if you want to donate to the charity of the day AFTER they badger you with questions about how you’re going to pay for your purchase.

Here’s my suggestion to Kmart on how the check out process should go:

1. If you want someone to contribute to a charity, ask that question first.
2. Ask the person if they want to pay by cash or by credit/debit card. Period. If you want people to sign up for your store brand credit card, put a small sign up by the register so customers can see it as they approach.

That’s it. I’m sure the customers will be thrilled at not having to answer 20 questions before they check out, and I’m sure the cashiers won’t sound like automatons reciting the litany of questions. You may actually get customers through the checkout line faster. Now that is something customers will like…and it doesn’t cost anything.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Love DVRs, Hate the Picture Freeze and Lockups

One of the best things to happen for lovers of television is the DVR. One of the worst thinks to happen to lovers of television is the DVR. How can it be both?

The answer is simple, DVRs allow viewers to easily digitally record television shows, in most cases more than one show at a time, and to play them back at will. But the downside to DVRs is that they are subject to lockup and freezing at inopportune moments, which can cause not only the show you’re recording to lose transmission but also whatever you happen to be watching. Nothing is more annoying than having your DVR display a black screen when you change the channel because the HD signal is corrupted or the DVR just can process the command. A few weeks ago, there was a major glitch with Time Warner in northern Ohio which caused the picture to jump and juggle and then disappear, not just once, but multiple times within a broadcast. (TVs not using a DVR or cable box were not affected.)  Time Warner promised credit – but only to those who contacted Time Warner to ask for it. Personally, I think Time Warner should have credited everyone for the  4-5 days of transmission problems; they know very well the problem was widespread.

But, back to DVRs. Serious consideration should be given to improving the dependability of these devices. It takes very little to cause then to become “confused” and to lock up. They also are horribly slow at times to respond to changing a channel, not to mention the length of time it takes them to reboot. My DVR is the newest model that Time Warner can offer at it is still awful at times. If I wasn’t paying an arm and a leg for Time Warner Cable, I wouldn’t be complaining. (I should clarify this is problem is not limited to Time Warner.) When I was a kid, watching television was free and we only had 3-4 channels that we needed “rabbit ears” or outside antennas to get a signal, and recording a TV show to watch later was virtually impossible for most. Now we have hundreds of channels, lovely HD pictures, and we can record and play back whenever we want. Yet sometimes those DVRs and cable boxes are no better than those rabbit ears.

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The Frequent Critic, here.