Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"How Many Keystrokes Does It Take To Buy Coffee?"

So asks Peter Cochrane in his blog at

"Late last night I checked into yet another hotel with a front desk from hell. I stood there mesmerised as the receptionist tapped away at the keyboard between asking me questions about my reservation, home address, company, wake-up call, newspaper etc, and swiping my credit and loyalty card. It was impressive! A total of 148 keystrokes were required before I got a plastic key and a room allocated.

"This morning, in the same hotel, I purchased two coffees, a croissant, a banana and a packet of biscuits for a mere 48 keystrokes. Last week I may have witnessed a world record attempt for the Electronic Point of Sale (Epos) keystroke inefficiency cup. All I wanted was a cup of coffee but it cost 48 keystrokes - for a cash purchase!

Of course, we all have stories like this. RadioShack used to be the worst, asking you for everything from your phone number to your blood type before they'd let you buy anything. That was before they changed their policy and just stopped selling anything anyone wants to buy. (Have you been in RadioShack lately? It's what I imagine computer stores were like in Moscow in 1980.)

Even my own favorite sanctuary, my home-away-from-home, Starbucks, has an oddly inefficient system: I place my order, which the clerk repeats back to me, then punches into the register, which has a digital readout, which I can see. I give the clerk my Sbux card. Then the clerk shouts the order to the barrista, then the clerk checks the appropriate boxes on the cup and writes my name, then the clerk asks me if I want my balance, which I don't, so the clerk gives me my card back and waits for the receipt no one wants so he/she can throw it away.

A Modest Proposal: Wouldn't it be simpler to place a second digital readout in front of the barrista? One with a memory? So that when the drink orders are keyed in by the clerk, they remain on the screen in front of the barrista?

And instead of printing out receipts, why not have a sticker-printing machine next to the register, that will print out the name of the drink? Then the clerk can slap that on the cup, instead of doing that whole Sharpie-box-checking thing.

Starbucks, if you're reading this, and you adopt these measures, and they revolutionize your business, you know where to reach me so you can fill up my Sbux card for free. A little somethin', y'know, for the effort.

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