Monday, June 18, 2007

RII: Request for Irrelevant Information
First, the solution: Safeway management should instruct cashiers to look at the customer's receipt – and if there aren't any minus signs (indicating savings), then the cashier should offer the customer a savings card application form.

Where I'm coming from: I've noticed an increase in employees asking me for irrelevant information. At the DMV, when I got to the front of the first line (for the forms), the employee behind the counter asked me "how would you like to pay for your driver's license renewal?"

"How would you like it?" I answered, a question for a question (that sounded just as awful as it reads.)

"Oh, you can pay by any method," she said.

In the time I then had to sit and wait, I wondered exactly why she asked me that. She didn't do anything with the information. And telling me I can pay by any method - be it cash, credit card, or check – is proof there isn't any reason for the question in the first place.

The cashiers at the Safeway in my neighborhood are an ongoing source of irrelevant questions. I know management requires them to ask these questions, as they’re always offered in exactly the same dull monotone. Until a short time ago, each cashier asked "do you need help with your grocery bags?" My neighborhood's populated by a a huge percentage of young, physically fit, extremly capable people, who clearly (on sight alone) do NOT need help with their grocery bags.

And for a while last year, each cashier was instructed to point out how much I saved at each store visit. This entailed a lengthy and scripted comment by each cashier, delivered in that monotone.

Nowadays, as the cashier starts ringing up my items, I'm asked "do you have a savings club card?" Yesterday, fed up with answering "yes" for no good reason, I ignored the question and focused on entering my debit card code into the scanner.

I'm pretty sure the reason the cashier asks is to find out which customers don't have savings cards, and then sign them up. But there's a better way of doing that. I opened the post with it. Instead of requiring cashiers to parrot the phrase "do you have a savings club card," give them the opportunity to show their wisdom and attention by figuring it out, all by themselves.

Ironically, when the cashiers were told to tell us how much money they saved, that meant the cashier had to look at the receipt.

I’m sure the cashiers would love to match the action with the dialogue.

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