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A Head of Lettuce and a College Kiosk

Posted by Rob Heller on 11/19/14 10:00 PM
Topics: textbook rental, college retail

Check out the latest post from the blog of MBS Wholesale Rep Rob Heller:

So I’m on my way home and the wife calls. “I need you to pick up a few things at the store,” she says.

“Honey, I’m driving — do I need to pull over and write this down?”

“No,” she responds. “It’s only three things, I think even you can rememimg_1780ber these.”

High praise indeed. So I stop by the local supermarket and grab my loaf of bread, a gallon of milk and a head of lettuce. Sure enough, it is 5:30 on a Friday night and the few open lines are packed. I decide I’m going to use the self-checkout kiosk.

I scan the milk and put it in a bag. I scan the bread and put it in a different bag. I learned that on a different trip to the store and that time I brought home a smashed mess. So, bread goes in a different bag than milk.

Now for the lettuce. There’s no bar code. I see the touch screen has a look-up feature. I tap that.

Oh great, now I have to spell lettuce on a Friday night. There’s at least one “e” and I think it has a “u” somewhere. Let’s see L-E-T-T, now pictures of lettuce populate the screen. I don’t know how many varieties of lettuce your store stocks but this one has it well covered. I study the stalk in my hand then compare pictures. It’s not round I know that. They’re all green looking. I finally just choose one, no idea if I’m correct or not.

At this point I’d like to add, I am college educated. I’ll also throw this out there; I am never again buying produce through a supermarket kiosk.

Several years ago college stores looked for a solution to rent textbooks in their stores. A kiosk was marketed as an easy approach. But easy for whom?

It wasn’t long before stores realized students had questions when operating the kiosk. Yes, the same students who couldn’t find a biology book when they were standing in front of that shelving unit had questions. So, they can’t find the book on the shelf, but we think they can apply student financial aid through their campus card, while securing the rental transaction with a credit card on a kiosk. Okay, why do we think that?

Why are guests in our stores waiting in two lines (one for purchases and another for the rental kiosk) when it can be completed faster by a cashier in one, single line? How many textbook rental customers are you losing by not running the program on your point of sale registers?

A kiosk can a wonderful invention for some simple retail processes: buying a loaf of bread, or a gallon of milk. But textbooks packages with ISBNs that don’t scan, or multiple tender types for textbook rentals should be done by trained staff, not students in a hurry to make their next class.

MBS is now accepting spring 2015 textbook lists for rental quotes. Make the process an easy solution for your students. Assume new rental business by educating your students during the checkout process. Win back those who were frustrated with the kiosk.

There are probably 15 or 20 workers in my local grocery store that know how to scan a head of lettuce on a kiosk; I am not one of them. Just because you understand your rental kiosk, don’t assume your students know how to use it, or enjoy the process. There is a better customer-centric method.

About Rob Heller

Rob Heller began work with MBS in the Wholesale Division in 2012, but his bookstore experiences stretch several decades. He began his career in the early 1990s with College Bookstores of America at their off-campus location serving Clemson University. Rob is also an accomplished sports broadcaster having announced nearly 2,500 games including the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. He has served as the home stadium announcer for Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, and several professional baseball and soccer teams. He and his wife currently reside in Elgin, South Carolina, (near Columbia) along with their three boys.

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