We might make retail software systems, but we’re customers too! There follows a tale of what happens when the machine is in charge, and out of control. In short half a day of frustration and a farcical sales process. Names have been removed to protect the innocent…
At AirPOS we already know the importance of making software easy to use, usability and simplicity is central to our design philosophy. And if we ever forget, we can go back to (name redacted) to remind ourselves of what a point of sale and customer management system should not be doing.
So we wanted to buy a mifi, for the uninitiated that’s a little handy device that takes in cellular data such as 3G and makes itself a portable wifi hotspot (we know that we’re narrowing down the outlets here, but the story is the story.)
To make things easier, we didn’t want a contract for the mifi and were happy with a pay-as-you-go deal for occasional use. In essence we wanted to walk into a retail shop, pay for the thing, and walk back out. Which should be easy right?
Well normally yes. Instead we got an abject lesson in what happens when software goes badly wrong and staff are at the mercy of its inadequacies.
A condensed version went like this:
“Hello sir, can we help you?”
US: “Yep, we’d like a pay-as-you-go mifi please. In fact this one here…” (points to device in brochure)
“That’s no problem, take a seat.”
We informed them that we were purchasing on behalf of our business, and were taken through a number of steps (for example VAT number, incorporation number, address etc.)
After ten minutes, with the staff member as baffled as we were by the process, we got stopped in our tracks. Essentially, computer says no. For a pay-as-you-go item? How bizarre.
Okay, we decided to expense the device to make things simpler. We informed (names redacted) that we were already a customer of theirs with a contract for more than two years in the belief that this would speed up the process. Again, no dice. After going through various identification checks on their system, the staff member helping us hit a wall (essentially the computer didn’t know who we were…)
A senior staff member later and we were no further along. In the end this turned out to be a problem with how the system recognised cards, in that it had no field at all for Visa Debit which seems like a huge oversight. After trying Visa Credit (denied), Delta (denied) it was decided that a way of identifying us (we repeat a customer for years) would be to take £1 from our bank account and then put it back.
At this point, we’d been there for over an hour going through various system checks (repeat, been a customer for years) only to then be moved to a different terminal where we had to enter our card details.
Then a contract was produced (a 30 day one) and the staff informed us that we could cancel at any time with 30 days notice. That exchange went something like:
“It’s really simple, you can just cancel at any time with 30 days notice…)
US: “Which means that if we only want it for occasional use we need to inform you that we want to cancel right now?”
Two hours in (and some cross words among staff members later) and we seemed to be coming to the end of the process, which had involved by this point seven signatures, three terminals, three seats and four card chip and pin entries.
And to top it all off the system then decided that the device (advertised as £49.99 in the brochure) was in fact £29.99. We pointed this out to the staff, being the honest souls that we were. That exchange?
US: “Eh the price on the receipt says £29.99, is that what we’re being charged?”
Staff: (blank looks…)
Fair enough, scant compensation for a half day spent trying to buy something that was almost laughably called pay-as-you-go.
And the lesson? If the machine is going to be in charge it must know what the hell’s going on! A timely reminder to us that we need to create in AirPOS something that is not only intelligent, but usable and accountable. Any retail store relies so heavily on their POS that it must be correct, the profound example above being a (very short) version of the farce that can happen when this is not the case.
As for being a long-standing customer, we won’t be soon simply exacerbating the loss to the company from what should have been a five minute pay and go experience.
As Gordon Ramsey once said:” POS, piece of s**t.” We promise we’ll strive to make sure that yours isn’t!