Free salsa

A week or so ago, Lay’s/Tostitos was offering a “buy 2 bags of chips, get a jar of salsa free” deal. This deal was the first thing on my personal “Scan it!” screen (more about that device at another time), it was advertised on several posters in the chip isle, and it had its own dedicated end-cap display, front and center. No one could have missed this special. Since we happened to be planning to buy tortilla chips that day and we knew we’d be going to a friend’s later, we thought we’d take advantage of it. We made sure to get the right size and brand of salsa (it was hard to go wrong, since the display was full of that one item) and proceeded to a self check-out lane (more about that at another time as well).

After scanning both bags of chips and the salsa the screen said, “savings: $.63” (or some such number). Uh… 63 cents off wasn’t exactly free. So I pushed the “help requested” button and continued scanning other items. Eventually a clerk came over, and I pointed out that the salsa was supposed to be free. She said it would come off the total at the end. I was a bit skeptical, but said okay and finished checking out. After pressing “finish and pay” and seeing that my total did not, in fact, change, I called her back over. She tried to assure me that it really would come out of the total, that she’d “had this happen with another customer earlier,” and I must admit to resisting a bit—after all, it had given me a $.63 discount, wouldn’t it have given me the full $3.99 discount then if it was going to? Finally giving in, I agreed to just finish the transaction.

Shockingly enough, it did actually come out of my final total. Whose incredible lack of foresight was this? If you have a special deal—especially a heavily advertised one—your customer should not have to wait until after they’ve given you their credit card to find out whether or not they saved the money you promised!

Clearly the computer knew I had fulfilled the requirements of the deal, and it was capable in other situations of giving feedback. How hard could it possibly be to change “savings: $.63” to “savings: $3.99”? This little change in interface design could have prevented a great deal of frustration for your customers and saved your employees a lot of grief.

Pay special attention to your checkout procedures: large, obvious things and small, easily-overlooked details are equally important. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but: do you have enough registers open? Is your customer getting immediate feedback on prices, sales, etc.? Is ‘cancel’ to the right of the signature line, instead of ‘okay,’ causing people to accidentally have to go through the whole credit card process again? If the last few minutes spent in your store are aggravating ones, that’s how your customer is going to walk out feeling, and that’s what they’re going to remember. I don’t know about you, but I try to avoid places that aggravate me.

Walking out, we heard, “Miss? This salsa…”


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