The Curse of Product Management: Self Checkout Kiosks

The Curse of Product Management: Self Checkout Kiosks

My local grocery store has a set of self-checkout kiosks. These are made by NCR, and they work ... mostly.

I use them a lot, and I have noticed that they often lock up, requiring the attendant to come and un-jam them. And it happens a LOT.

Today, the store manager was working the monitoring station, and he said to me that they lock up about 75% of the time if you enter your rewards code after your first scanned item. But, if you enter your rewards code after you have completed scanning all your items, the kiosk works fine, and never locks up.

As a product manager, this pains me. It is a glitch that is:

  1. Repeatable, there are steps that make it replicate reliably
  2. A huge issue for the users, causing them to avoid using this, and
  3. Slows the throughput, as the attendant has to walk to the unit, scan their card, type in their authorization code, and un-sticking it

Today, predictably, I had 4 items in my hand basket, I scanned the first item. That fires up the prompt to enter your rewards code, so I did, and it fucking crashed (stuck) the system.

Today, I didn't have to flag the attendant down, instead he saw it freeze and he came to unstick it, and told me about the issue described above.

Naturally, I asked if they had submitted feedback about this, and he confirmed that they had, many times over the last several years, but they have given up hope that it will ever be fixed.

This really gets my product management hackles up. I mean sure, the engineers probably wave their hands and say that the interface between the kiosk and the payment console (separate, but attached/connected) is not their fault, and the company that makes the payment consoles probably is too large to address the issue. So they throw up their hands, and say it is unfixable.

But the evidence - clearly if you enter the code after completing the scans the problem doesn't manifest - is that this is a solvable issue, and their lazy turds of engineers are being lazy turds. Or perhaps their product managers suck ass and ignore the complaints.

Yeah, I can't help but think they really need a swift kick in the arse. They all suck.

Mainly for making me think about this shit on a Saturday. I've been doing product management for too long.