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Checkout Counter Shortcuts – and other thoughts about efficiency in everyday life

By December 6, 2003culture

Ever had this happen? You’re standing in line at the checkout counter and you have several of the same items (i.e. a batch of Christmas lights). The person at the checkout counter meticulously scans each item, even though you just know that the scanner/register has the ability to have all the items entered in one pass of the scanner. If the right shortcut is triggered before the scan.

I don’t blame the checkout person, because I’m sure that –in many cases– they haven’t been told that the scanner is capable of doing this. Or maybe they know it has the ability but they haven’t been shown how to do it. Frankly, I’m more dismayed by office computer users who have never ventured to use a keyboard shortcut for, say, printing, even though they see the shortcut on the pull down menu every time they select it.

I guess some people just aren’t looking for shortcuts. Which makes me think of this really sad thought: I wonder if there are any TIVO users out there who don’t ever bother to fast-forward through the commercials?


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

2 Comments

  • Su says:

    A few years ago I worked as a temporary secretary for a small construction firm with only one secretary. During my training day, she was showing me how to use the Fed Ex website to prepare labels for packages. This company shipped many packages by Fed Ed per day. As we finished the first one, I pointed to a button on the screen that said, “Prepare another label” and said, “And then you just press that to do the next one?” And she said, “No, you have to do them one at a time. You press Log Out, and it takes you back to the log-in screen, and then you log in again, and do the next package.”

    I thought, “That’s odd.” The next day, on my own, I experimented and discovered that you could in fact use “Prepare another label” to do exactly that without logging out and in. I have always wondered what the full-time secretary thought that button was there for.

  • Ted Roche says:

    I worked at an insurance company in the mid-80’s, and came across the CEO’s secretary entering figures into what would become the annual report, in Excel. As she typed each number into Excel, she also punched it into her desk calculator. When she was done, she summed the numbers on the calculator, and entered that figure as the total in Excel. When I explained and showed her that Excel could do that for her, she was much impressed. She thought that Excel just let you enter numbers into little boxes. Some folks just don’t know and aren’t willing to experiment.

    In the case of the cashier, though, I wonder if it was more laziness. Many products come in similar boxes (strings of 50 and 100 Christmas lights, for example), and they’d actually have to pay attention to distinguish one from the other, rather than dragging everything over the scanner.

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