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Stupid interface design (a rant)

Would someone who knows the person responsible for this interface please kick the guy in the balls for me? Repeatedly?

Here’s what happens when I go to Safeway and attempt to pay for my groceries with a debit/credit card. I use my debit card as a Mastercard always, because I get money back if I do.

I press the debit/credit button on the little card reading machine. The machine asks me for my phone number or to swipe card. I don’t know if it means to ask me to swipe my Safeway club card, or my credit card, but since I only have one of those two, I swipe my credit card.

Then, it prompts me for my PIN. I don’t want to give it my PIN, I want to use it like a credit card. I press Cancel, never knowing if doing so will suddenly drop me out of the entire transaction (as it does if I press Cancel at any other time during the transaction, or if I press Cancel at any ATM in the world.)

THEN it prompts me for Debit or Credit. Shouldn’t this step be before asking for my PIN?!?!?

I press Credit and it either prints out a receipt for me to sign, or prompts me to sign on the machine using the attached stylus, then press Done when I’m done. Except here’s a secret: you don’t have to press Done. My signature is so long, the machine usually stops accepting it halfway through because it thinks I’m done after I pick up the stylus the second time (I have three words in my name).

Other stupid pay-point machine interfaces include the ones where you have to press the green Enter button to continue, but the screen says:
“Press OK or Cancel” with OK and Cancel positioned over the gray buttons at the top of the interface. In some stores, pressing the grey buttons works. In others, it doesn’t. And in some places, you have to press the gray buttons instead of the Enter or Cancel (which makes more sense, since “Enter” is not the same as “OK”).

With all this annoyance, you would think it would be easier to hand my card to the cashier. Guess what? Cashiers are no longer trained or empowered to hand-key your credit card number anymore. Ever give them a credit card with a weak magnetic strip? They’ll run that thing through the slot reader so many times, you’d think they’re trying to make fire, but not once will they hold the card up and hand-key the numbers on it into the system.

The 2 years I worked at a hardware store taught me how to hand-enter a set of numbers into a 10-key keypad so fast, it was actually faster than running them through a slot more than twice.

Kids today….

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2 thoughts on “Stupid interface design (a rant)”

  1. A few years ago a law suit gave retailers the choice on Debit/Credit card transactions. The court said since the retailer has to pay the transaction fee, they have the right to choose if the card supports both transactions. At that time Credit Card transactions were 2x-3x the cost of debit transactions.

    The machines at Grocery stores are designed to let the retailer decide if they will automatically to only accept debit or to let the customer choose. Sometimes the retailers configure them poorly. It looks like they wanted to push you toward using debit

  2. Actually, as a kindly cashier at a chain drug-store here in the Chicago ‘burbs, I’d like to second that “push you towards using debit” thought. The fees for the lovely retailer are so severe that our employee purchases are actually more expensive if we use credit The cashier has no way of overriding how the register decides you should pay. In fact, complaints from myself and others that this was slowing down lines and causing customers grief led to a company-wide email announcing that we should describe this as a “convenience feature.” I’m not kidding.

    Also, let it be known that they installed new registers at my store over 18 months ago, and at the time I specifically asked the trainer how to manually enter credit cards. He said “You can’t do that on this system.” Two weeks ago, I discovered that it was possible after all, and only a slight variation on how it was done on the old system.

    We also have a system installed so that you can pay by check with just your fingerprint, which is the ultimate scam and no one uses it, but . . . the company gets a lot of extra money from those who use it, so our registers actually have to be overridden during every transaction that does not include paying by fingerprint, and prompt us to make sure to ask if they want to sign up for it (that screen also has to be overridden).

    Put a garden on the roof of your RV. Almost every chain store you can think of intends to screw you.

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