Whenever I see technology clearly designed to make things easier but is instead complicating things, I’m filled with questions. How could this have possibly been approved? Why is the system worse off than it was before? I’m sure that each new technology was originally designed with the goal of either solving a problem or solving a perceived problem. But maybe there wasn’t a problem to begin with. Where do we draw the line with creating new systems? Who ultimately gets to decide that we need a new system? How much of the “complicatedness” is just us being unwilling to learn something new and how much is it that we feel we shouldn’t need to have to learn something new?
I was at a US airport yesterday with this terrible system of buying food. It was a sea of endless non-ordered lines and waiting. First you wait for an available kiosk to select what you want. Then a receipt prints out your total and the screen tells you to go to a kiosk to pay. Nowhere on the screen or the receipt does it tell you where these new kiosks are. From where I was standing, it would appear that the kiosks would be right at the burger place I picked. But no, all the food counters in the vicinity share one kiosk station to pay. From there it was just chaos. It was difficult to decipher who was in line and even where the “line” started since there really wasn’t one. Then all the kiosks suddenly stopped working and had to be restarted. Meanwhile, I’m assuming that my food is not going to be prepared until I pay, so I’m trying to pay as soon as possible. The screens keeps asking me to scan my boarding pass to get reward points and it appeared at first glance that this was not optional when it really was. I scanned mine and absolutely nothing happened. There was also an option to input your cell phone number so you can be alerted when your food is ready for pickup. I opted in just for the heck of it to get a feel for the whole experience. Finally I have paid and make my way back over to the food area and there’s a sea of confused people waiting. A woman makes an announcement that if you haven’t paid to please go to do that now. Suddenly the amount of people waiting went from about 20 to 5. All in all, I was left with the conclusion that this system is not working out so great for them. Yet, we’re all forced to deal with it.
I’m sure they meant well and truly wanted to improve the checkout experience. But unfortunately, I found this system to be the worst checkout experience I’ve ever encountered. I understand that new systems have to start somewhere, but my feeling is that the airport is not the place to try to implement something like this. It should be at a much smaller establishment where there’s fewer people trying to use it at once. Definitely a place where there is an easily accessible employee there to give assistance. And certainly, the bugs in the kiosks need to be worked out. Airport travelers do not have the time to be waiting around like this and it’s a shame they didn’t bear that in mind in the first place. I’m all for innovation and new technologies, but there is a time and a place for them.
I think the greater question is: Was the old checkout experience that awful that they had to create this one? What’s wrong with the original tell a person your order, pay, and wait for your food? Are businesses really that money-hungry that they want to get rid of as many employees as possible?