Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Brooklyn Tale

No matter how brilliant our ideas for new ways of designing meetings or communicating with members and attendees may be, they won’t work if we don’t know our audience.

I’ve heard that a hundred times, but it was brought home to me this morning when I stopped at the drugstore in my Brooklyn neighborhood. The drugstore is part of a chain and recently removed a counter with two cash registers and replaced it with four automated checkout stands.

In theory, the automated registers provide faster, more efficient service. In practice, however, they are a big flop. From what I’ve observed, the store’s customers either ignore them, lining up to be waited on by two now very overworked cashiers, or make half-hearted attempts to use the automated registers while complaining loudly.

I’m a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, but even I could have predicted that the self-service registers were not going to be embraced. The residents of Carroll Gardens, where I live, love to talk to each other. We sit on the stoop and chat, we stand on the corner to talk about the weather, we holler hello across the street. This may be the world capital for block parties and lemonade stands.

The decision to add the new registers was most likely made by someone who never set foot in the store, much less the neighborhood.

“They say the registers are popular in Manhattan,” the cashier said to me this morning as she counted out my change. “But this isn’t Manhattan.”


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