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Best Buy's point-of-sale software hates you - Elf M. Sternberg
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Best Buy's point-of-sale software hates you
The other day I broke my headphones (how is another story), so I went to Best Buy to get a new pair. At the register, I discovered that Best Buy had, like everyone else, gone to the chip-and-PIN system. I find C&P annoying; buying something is still a social activity, a brief exchange between two human beings. The swipe system was simple and transactive and allowed both involved to interact mostly with each other; C&P puts all of your attention on the chip reader. Starbucks understood this, and the C&P system they've rolled out is the least intrusive I've seen. Best Buy, on the other hand, has gone for an experience with its chip-and-PIN card readers that conveys a sense that Best Buy's hates you and hates having to deal with you. I have a rule that I will always buy from a brick and mortar over Amazon if it's within a twenty-minute drive. Best Buy's C&P system is so user-hostile I may reconsider that rule.

First, like almost every C&P system (but not, notably, Starbucks), you can't just shove your card in and ignore it until the transaction has ended. You have to look at the screen and wait until the machine says "Insert your card now." This is something UX designers call "active friction:" a transaction that used to be seamless now not only has its seams exposed but they're big enough for you to trip over them. Then it asks if I want the transaction in English or "Espanol" [sic]. It's Español, people; this is 2016 and Unicode is a thing!

The Best Buy C&P reader then asks if you want to sign up for a Best Buy credit card. Fuck no, don't ask me again. Upselling after the purchase transaction has begun is another hostile anti-pattern. Upselling by the machine is missing the point of having a human cashier!

After that, you get a screen that says "Do you want to treat this as a DEBIT card, or as a DEBIT MASTERCARD card?" I look at the cashier. "What does that mean? What's the difference?" He doesn't know, says it probably doesn't matter. I pick one.

The next page is the worst. "Accept Your Application? Yes / No."

Three screen back I was asked if I wanted to apply for a Best Buy credit card. Thinking I may have hit the wrong button, I immediately hit "No."

I get "Transaction cancelled."

The cashier says, "What happened?" I explained to him what happened, and he said, "Oh, that's not what that means. It wants you to confirm what kind of card you're using."

"It doesn't say that at all!"

"I know," he said. "It's awful."

So we go through the whole transaction again, I get past that screen, it asks if I want my receipt emailed. "Yes." The email entry screen is terrible, since the display is barely bigger than a cell phone. I'm repulsed again: can't they get my email address from the vendor?

Finally, "Enter your PIN." I do that.

"Use card ending in 1234 for this transaction?" Yes.

"Do you want to put all of the cost on this card?" Fuck, YES, already. "Transaction completed."

Ugh.

Compared to just handing over cash, there's so much friction in this exchange that it's hard to believe this is going to be the standard way we do business. It's so bad I would accuse Amazon of secretly engineering it to make the "One Click" buy-it-now process seem downright delightful. There are so many screens, so poorly worded, with so many easy misinterpretations and so many delays, that by the time I got to my car for deep loathing for what I had just experienced reinvigorated my desire to make my customers never have to suffer anything like that again.

Start with the initial impression that they don't really care that much for Spanish-speaking patrons (much less Vietnamese, Russian, Somali, Chinese, Korean, Ukrainian, Amharic, or Punjab, all of which are highly prevalent in my urban region). Add the deliberate confusion of the word "apply," the poor email address management, the sheer number of screens. Split-pay transactions like "Let me use up this gift card and I'll cover the rest with another card or cash" are pretty rare; to actually put this into the transaction flow that confronts every customer is goddamned stupid. That should be something the customer and cashier can work out together.

I'm a fairly technologically advanced human being. I write user interfaces like this for a living. That's my day job. I don't know if that makes me uniquely qualified to critique Best Buy's new C&P interface, but it shouldn't bewilder and upset me to use it. If I'm left confused by this point of sale tech, I can't begin to imagine what someone with far less education and experience goes through when they encounter this kind of bullshit.

Best Buy's point-of-sale chip-and-PIN interface communicates clearly that it doesn't trust the customer, expects the customer to be an idiot, and it expects to be able to use that idiocy to manipulate the customer into buying or agreeing to items they don't want. It also communicates clearly that it doesn't trust the cashier, either, by putting an unusual transaction workflow into the standard experience. So much attention is dedicated to managing this PoS (piece of [redacted]) that the usual pleasant social experience of dealing with a nice and competent cashier (and I got the impression mine was) was ruined. Until Best Buy changes their software, if you have to buy there, bring cash.

Tags:
Current Location: Starbucks
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

4 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
ungulata From: ungulata Date: November 2nd, 2016 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to want something pretty badly to pay by any means other than cash. Your experience with Best Buy's Point of Sale payment dialog is reminiscent of the software my employer has bought to manage time punch data and holiday requests. Each employee has a unique electronic key. This key, initially used to open magnetically locked doors, now doubles as a punch station identifier. The software, "Algo", which has identified the worker via the key, proceeds to ask confirmation that it's really you, that the job description that it has on file is indeed yours, that you are working in the department it has on file for you, and that you are starting your day. Rinse and repeat for lunch and quitting time. That's when it's not on the fritz or really, really slow. Asking for a day off involves a bunch of menus that are not all intuitive and that are frequently not up to date.

In short, in the name of saving on paper and labor, this thing is making us do secretarial work.
From: tamsinj Date: November 3rd, 2016 09:34 am (UTC) (Link)
That's ridiculous. I've never seen anything like that over here (UK).
So yesterday I bought groceries - self-scan till.
Hit "Pay with card" till says follow card reader instructions.
(Card reader display)


(thinks for a second...)
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<payment [...] £xx.xx>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

That's ridiculous. I've never seen anything like that over here (UK).
So yesterday I bought groceries - self-scan till.
Hit "Pay with card" till says follow card reader instructions.
(Card reader display)

<Insert card>
<American Express> (thinks for a second...)
<Payment amount £xx.xx / Enter PIN>
<Transaction complete - remove card>

.... done

Which is pretty friction free. As fast/faster than cash unless you have it out in advance, and definitely faster for those people who had to dig around and sort through their wallet to find the right bits of cash.
From: norikos_author Date: November 4th, 2016 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
"Best Buy's point-of-sale chip-and-PIN interface communicates clearly that it doesn't trust the customer, expects the customer to be an idiot, and it expects to be able to use that idiocy to manipulate the customer into buying or agreeing to items they don't want."

Sooo.... it's following standard Best Buy policy, then? Remember, this is the same company that had a fake internal website that looked just like its online store so they could charge more in the stores.
resonant From: resonant Date: November 6th, 2016 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went to the grocery store.

Total appeared on the RFID card reader.

I tapped my card on the reader.

The reader beeped, indicating it properly scanned my card information.

My receipt printed out.
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