Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Kiosk Annoyances

For non-UK readers, it occurred to me as I was forming this blog entry in my mind today, you might not know what a kiosk is - in supermarket terms.

It's the counter, usually near the main checkouts, with tills that sell, exclusively, cigarettes, tobacco and lottery tickets (or, at least, they're supposed to sell those things exclusively - people actually insist on paying for basket-fulls of groceries there too). When I went to the USA, a few years ago now, cigarettes seemed to be either available from certain sign-posted checkouts or just out on the shop floor with the other merchandise. I'm not sure about other countries though. Perhaps our tiny nation is alone in adding kiosks to supermarkets - just to annoy the staff.

When we got the new kiosk in May, I spent a lot of time on there. The slightest hint of a queue and I was right there, leaping onto one of the tills to help out. This was because I liked the shiny new-ness of it and, for some reason, this enhanced the experience of working on there. It was the same two weeks ago, when the whole kiosk was moved along several feet to get it away from the entrance. Just that slight move seemed to change the whole experience of working on it.

Of course, that's worn off now. All that I'm left with is the irritations and frustrations that come with manning this counter. Allow me to elaborate.


Kiosk customers will often ask the most stupid questions, make the most vague requests you could imagine, or give you too much information about what they want:
  • "What's the lightest cigarette you do?" Are you dumb? Do you really think it makes any difference?
  • "Twenty fags please." What am I? Psychic? I need to know which brand you want!
  • "Twenty Embassy Regal Kingsize please." Do you want Embassy or Regal? One's red, one's blue. Or do you want ten of each? Help me here!

Memory Games

And as if some of the demands they make aren't stupid enough, customers can also cause annoyance in the way they make their demands. Lots of naughty customers will approach you and say something like this:

"Could I have twenty Lamberts, ten Richmond Superkings, ten Regal Kingsize, five Hamlet cigars, three lucky dip lottery tickets for tonight, two lucky dips for Saturday - on separate tickets, one of them's for Aunt Belle - a Hotpicks three-numbers for tonight, a Lucky Donkey scratchcard - oh, and a lighter."

And I'm standing there, cross-eyed and thinking "que?". How on earth could anybody expect you to remember all of that twaddle?

But, worse still, there are the people who think you're incapable of taking more than one request at a time. It's much worse with lottery customers. They'll begin by giving you one play-slip which you then process for them. This involves taking the slip from them, walking to the lottery machine, and then walking back to till to add the lottery ticket to their bill. When you've done that, they hand you another slip. Repeat process. And another. Repeat process. Then they ask for a lucky dip ticket. Repeat process. Then they want a Thunderball. Repeat process. Then they ask for twenty Bensons. Walk over and get them, bring them back to scan onto the till. Then they ask for twenty Richmond. Repeat process.

I could, honestly, kill those people. I really could. Are they just trying to see how fast they can get me to move? Or whether they can make me dizzy?

Grocery Shopping

The kiosk is quite clearly not a checkout. There's no conveyor belt, no packing area and no scales. But that doesn't stop people thinking they can pay for anything they like there. "But I'd have to queue twice!" they protest if you tell them to pay for their shopping at the checkouts and then get their lottery tickets. I always feel like saying: "Oh, so you'd also like to pay at the deli counter to avoid queuing again?" Bugger off.

I have no objection to somebody with a small basket of items paying at the kiosk at quieter times. They want lottery or ciggies so it makes sense to pay in one go at one till. But lugging a basket crammed with 50 items through the kiosk at peak lottery times is not a good idea. For a start, it's not fair on the people who do it properly and pay for their shopping at the checkouts then join the kiosk queue for whatever else they need. There's nothing worse than waiting for ages behind somebody who's paying for far too much on tills they shouldn't be using.

But since Food Place has forbidden us to turn baskets away from the kiosk or put 10-items signs up, there's not a lot we can do about it apart from politely remind people not to do it. And get our head's bitten off for doing so.

Back to Lottery

Why can't people fill out slips properly? It's simple. You mark the draw you're entering, and mark the numbers you wish to play. If you can't decide on numbers, mark the 'lucky dip' box and the machine will pick for you. If you want more than one line of numbers, simply complete another box.

But it's all too complicated for some. About half of the slips you're handed and place into the machine will be spat back out. People don't fill in enough numbers, they don't mark the relevant boxes to opt-out of additional games, they mark too many numbers. It's really not that bloody difficult!

And then you get people who hand you slips that look like they've been eaten and vomited back up. How the hell do they expect the machine to process it? Damp, full of creases, coffee stains. Dear oh dear. Customers will sometimes make their own alterations to their play-slips. For example, last year the UK lottery operator made the play-slips for all games longer - meaning they didn't fit into the little plastic wallets that some people keep them in. No bother! They just cut the tops off them! For God's sake, it's a machine! It only recognises what it's programmed to recognise!

Some don't even bother with play-slips. We have a growing number of regular customers who, week-in, week-out, can't be arsed to fill out a slip, instead choosing to come to the counter and rhyme-off the numbers they want for you to enter manually into the machine. Can't you see there are people waiting? I haven't got time to prat about waiting on you hand and foot!

And finally...

Don't dare ask for anything from the top shelf. I'm five-foot-naught and can't reach without standing on the bottom shelf and smacking my head off the top shelf in the process!


Anonymous said...
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Al said...

I love this post! I can relate to all of it, although I can reach the top shelf just fine :).

We actually have signs up that say you can't pay for anything at the kiosk that isn't sold there. They also put on there that it's at the request of the customers, which is good to use if someone starts complaining about it. Of course it doesn't stop people from bringing their baskets over, especially if the express tills are busy. It's amazing how many people can't see something that's perfectly obvious.

I can cope if someone gives me a list of different brands they want all together, but when they do the same with lottery I can't.

Can I add two annoying things to the list for me?

1. People who will insist on having loads of tickets checked at 7pm on a Saturday evening. We only have one terminal and lottery can only be purchased through one of the two tills (I don't know why). There's nothing to stop them doing this of course, but it's damned inconsiderate.

2. As we have 2 tills on the kiosk but only 1 for lottery, the person on the second till will deal with anyone not wanting lottery. However, there is only one queue so that person will clearly and loudly ask for the next person who just wants fags etc. to come down. The number of people who get to the second till and ask for lottery...

James UK said...

"Twenty Embassy Regal Kingsize please." Do you want Embassy or Regal? One's red, one's blue. Or do you want ten of each? Help me here!"

I HATED working the kiosk at the COOP, when I worked there because of this. I never knew the cigs. "lingo", so whenever someone said "10 B&H long", I had get them to point out what they wanted.

Lottery-wise, I liked the idea of Tesco's "Fastplay" thing where you got a barcode for your wallet.

Given most people do the same numbers or same lucky dips it was much eaiser.

Mind you, we do all ours online now, which is easiest of all.

AggressiveAdmin said...

What I do hate about checking tickets for people is when they give you them to check, but demand to have them back - and if you're putting new lottery tickets through for them, I get all muddled up and usually end up charging them for the old tickets.

All three of our kiosk tills can handle lottery, but the lottery functions are built into the place where the PLU shortcut menus are on the main checkouts. So on the kiosk, you have to go searching through the wheel for PLUs for EVERYTHING

Because all the kiosk tills do lottery, we only have one queue - but the number of people who barge past and stand next to the terminal is so annoying. They just stand there, observing other people doing things the correct way and, nine times out of ten, they'll get all arsy when you point out that it's all one queue. I normally pretend I haven't seen them until they get the message. Rude I know, but I can't be bothered with sheparding people around because they're too thick to co-ordinate themselves.

And I hate Tesco's Fast-Play thing. It's much easier for the customer, but the problem is people come with winning tickets printed on thermal till paper. They won't scan on the lottery terminal because the paper has reacted to heat somewhere along the line and come out in black blotches.

People also have a habit of giving you double-sided fast-play cards with barcodes on both sides - but they only actually want you to scan one side - but neglect to tell you this.

On the flip side though - I actually like working on the kiosk generally because it passes the time faster than any other department in the store.

James UK said...

"but the problem is people come with winning tickets printed on thermal till paper"

Ah, good old thermal paper... God only knows why this stuff exists!

I've read stories of companies frantically photocopying mountains of thermal printed faxes from years ago, because they've all started to fade and "disappear"...

And true about it passing the time on the Kiosk... I hate not having anything to do at work, as for me(and you from what you've said)it makes the day drag so much.

Al said...

I haven't come across many people who want the tickets back, although I do always ask just in case. Half the time the question goes unanswered as they wander off or move on to their next request. At least I tried.

If I have a number of playslips to put through I always just leave the tickets in the machine until I've done them all. I can't get them mixed up that way. What I do hate though is when people have a few playslips but they haven't filled them in fully (no day marked or no Dream Number marked) so it gets spit back out at you. Not only is it slower but it increases the chances of me buggering it up by doing the same one twice and/or missing one.

I think the only thing stopping us having 2 queues is lack of space. Perhaps this will be solved with the refit because it's a nightmare for those who just want cigs on a Saturday evening.

As for the fastplay thing, I'm largely indifferent. I guess I just don't spend enough time on the kiosk to be bothered by the fact that they never scan properly.

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