Check-it… out!

long-checkout-line1If there is one thing that irks me more than anything else as a consumer, it’s waiting in an unnecessarily long check-out line.

Standing in line waiting to pay for you for my purchases is time I’ll never get back – and I fully blame you for it, brick & mortar retailer. In a day and age of online competition, price wars, and free shipping, where you need to earn your repeat customers, the one act of good will/marketing you maintain complete control over is getting them checked out and on their way as quickly as humanly possible. What bothers me further, is if while I’m standing in line, I watch as multiple, capable employees go about their business performing other random tasks that could easily wait until a quieter time.

If I’m running a store, every employee is trained to be a cashier. And at the first hint of a line forming, they should be climbing over each other to open a new lane. Everything else can wait. Right now- you’re customers come first. Such a cheap, easy – yet powerful – act of marketing right at your fingertips.

Here are two examples of where I experienced the best & worst in action…

WORST: Local grocery store chain. I often go during the lunch hour. On way more occasions than acceptable I’ve spent more time in line than it took me to complete my shopping. I’ve noticed during this time that the store typically has four self-checkout lanes under the watchful eye of one employee, one express check-out lane limiting to seven items or less, and one regular check-out lane open.

My typical haul requires me to utilize the full regular check-out lane which is without fail at minimum 4-5 customers deep.

What made this experience even more infuriating is that while I’m standing and waiting in this line, just beyond the cash register I had to watch as a perfectly capable employee wiped down a display rack of baseball merchandise… AT A GROCERY STORE! Clearly, the hat & pennant display can remain a little dusty a few minutes longer. Please don’t otherwise flaunt your well-staffed store in my face as I lose more and more of my lunch break.

Score: 1.5 outta 5 Brand Engagement Rings. I’ll concede the fact that it was lunch time and the average customer is filling a basket, not a cart. But you have to recognize that those who need this regular lane are in fact the cart fillers and thus have a higher check-out-time-to-customer ratio increasing the wait even further. Further more, these are your regular bulk shoppers; they should be considered and treated like VIPs.

BEST: Baby mega-store. It was a Sunday, which meant the customer service area was especially busy setting up new mommies & daddies with their shower registries. That tends to pull employees even further away from other duties, which made this particular experience even more impressive.

It was otherwise quite crowded with general shoppers. As we made our way to the check-out line for the second time (we went a first time and realized we forgot something) I witnessed for the second time a random employee, who was otherwise occupied with other duties, recognize a bit of a log jam at the registers and dart for an available register shouting en route: “I can help the next person in line over here.”

Then, after checking out even as few as one customer until the wave had passed, she went about her other business.

Score: 4 outta 5 Brand Engagement Rings. Though as good as it gets, In the first exercise of handing out B.E. Rings, I can’t very well give out a 5 outta 5. There has to be some room for improvement.

But that is the way it should happen. If you want to get me off the internet and into your store – ironically enough – make sure you get me out of your store as fast as you possibly can once I’m ready to leave.

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