Whole Foods changes register logistics
Whole Foods at Union Square has abandoned its practice of stationing troops at the front of the register lines. We’re all familiar with those famously rude barkers who told you which register to approach with your purchases. In their place, the store has installed two large flatscreen monitors (one in express, one in regular) with four vertical color bands on each, one band for each line. When it’s your turn to go to a register, a number appears in your color band (you can tell by the colored panel hanging above you), and a scary voice booms out “REGISTER THIRTY-TWO!”
This system is superior to the old one, of course. I’m always happy to see humans removed from such menial jobs. But at the moment, everyone in line feels nervous, and it doesn’t help to have the booming alien voice overhead. In the express line, they have a robotish woman, similar to the one you hear on the phone sometimes. In the regular line, you have a loud, seemingly retarded man yelling out the numbers. I felt nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find my register without someone pointing at it for me. The truth, though, is that we were babied by those loud men before. There is still one guy walking around to help out in case of a problem, and some people were getting lost, but we’ve all been through those crazy lines often enough to know how to get around quickly.
One fact that becomes conspicuous is that the express lines are much faster than the regular lines. The robot woman’s voice was twice as regular as that of the scary man. I tend to use the regular line, because it looks shorter and I have a simple brain. The express line is always stretching back to the flowers, or even to the hot food, but it zips right along, and the colored bands on the express flatscreen blink rapidly with the numbers of open registers. Meanwhile, customers in the regular line stand staring at a colorful but otherwise blank screen, eagerly awaiting their turn to take orders from the robot.