Article > Operations

A Work-Around Is Not A Solution For Any Business

By Mark Phillips

Watching this kind of inefficiency and knowing that I’ve tried to help them correct it, is maddening, to say the least.
Mark Phillips
A work-around is not a solution, especially if it’s done repeatedly.

There’s a particular business newspaper I buy from time to time at a grocery store. It never fails: I always buy at the automated checkout and the newspaper is never entered into their system. Every other paper is, but not this one. Each time I buy (er, try to buy), an employee has to leave their post to walk over to my checkout stand, slide an ID card, punch in a bunch of numbers, scan my newspaper and type some more numbers. The same thing happens if I buy in line from a cashier.

The process, from start to finish, takes about three minutes. It might not seem like much, however, this grocery store sells about 15 copies of the newspaper a day. So a day’s worth of newspapers adds up to about 45 minutes of wasted time each day. (Thankfully, the paper only comes out six days a week!)
Each time this happens, I politely tell the employee (a different one each time) that if they would just enter the newspaper’s bar code into their system, this wouldn’t happen and they wouldn’t be wasting their time every time someone buys it.

This insane workaround process has played out for about the past four years. (You’d think I’d give up.) The grocery store is part of a multi-store chain. Guess what happens when I try to buy the paper in another county? Same thing.

No matter where it happens, the employee seems very apathetic toward the time being wasted, even after I explain that this has happened countless times. After all, if they weren’t attending to this newspaper snafu, they’d just be doing something else in the store, right? They’re getting paid either way.

It’s gotten to the point where I either buy at another store or buy the paper on my Kindle. I save money — the Kindle version is 50 cents, versus the $2 paper version price — and I spare myself the hassle of dealing with this workaround.

Watching this kind of inefficiency and knowing that I’ve tried to help them correct it, is maddening, to say the least.

Does buying something have to be this hard?

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