Unnecessary Technology

Poor planning = useless technology.

by Jamie Sanford on February 28, 2009

The "get a number" machine at the Stop & Shop Deli.

I went to the store last night (Stop & Shop in this case), where my husband and stopped to pick up a few things for dinner.  We walked over to the deli so I could get some cheese, and instead of the basic machine (if you can even call it that, it was more like a dispenser of paper numbers), I found this giant thing with very clear instructions.  Press red button!

My husband made the obvious comment “what made them think they needed to upgrade the process for picking up a number?”  We laughed and he went over to the bakery while I waited to get some cheese.  I kept staring at this machine, took this crappy photo with my phone, and ideas started going through my head for what this could have been.

Issue 1: the “predicted wait” section that isn’t working.  I get the idea of telling someone how long they think they are going to make them wait to get cheese and other processed meats.  However, does this wait time change based on when you visit the store?  I worked at the grocery store in high school, and I know that there was a vast difference in wait times for things, depending on the day.  I waited for about 3 minutes last night at the Stop & Shop, but I expect that I would wait for 10 minutes or more on Saturday morning.  Does this machine take that into account?

Issue 2: No useful collection of data. The current system involves having the deli worker press a button to advance the count on the “Now Serving” sign, with no communication between the new automated number dispenser and the count on display (they were showing “now serving 164” when the woman being served was 166). A more efficient system would involve a time-stamped bar code on the ticket.  The deli representative could scan the receipt when they start the order, and based on the time difference between the bar code on the ticket and the time of scan, there could be real-time estimates on the wait time, based on an average of the 5 (or whatever number is chosen) most recent transactions.

Issue 3: Heinous design choices.  I get that these are Stop & Shop’s new colors and that’s fine.  However, what is going on with the placement of the words?  Why is “for service at our deli” in a green box and why is it being pulled away as a different section, with “for” capitalized as if starting a new sentence?  I am not a designer but this was just really strange to me.

This is clearly new in the store (I can’t read all of the words that are handwritten on there), but the machine isn’t fully functional, and it simply doesn’t appear to have been well thought-out.  I would love to know what sort of technology staff that Stop & Shop is employing, and what sort of process they go through to implement these sorts of initiatives in their stores.

Does anyone else have thoughts on how this could be improved?

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