My employer sells pizza, and one of its more successful and long-running twofer sales has been on two slices. It’s been around long enough to have a dedicated register button.
Well, recently they rolled out an overlapping twofer sale – people could still buy two slices and save, but they’d save a little more if they bought two slices and a certain brand of soda.
Overlapping twofer sales are nothing new here – we have enough of them on candy bars, and they change often enough, that I can’t reliably tell the customers what candy will cost until I ring it in – but this time, corporate screwed up and the sale didn’t work with that dedicated register button. It also didn’t work if the soda was rung up first. The customer only got the sale price if we rang up one slice, then the other slice, then the soda.
This caused complaints.
It didn’t help that corporate also routinely screws up communications, or to put it more bluntly, it doesn’t bother communicating sales to the counter help and would rather we just parrot what comes up on the register screen. This meant that some of us didn’t even know about this new sale until the complaints started trickling in. Sure, there was a sign, but there are dozens of signs everywhere all the time and they’re also sometimes inaccurate (like the ones that advertised two different carding policies for cigarettes), so that also didn’t help.
After a little while, corporate decided on a course of action to fix this problem. They sent word down through the management structure that everyone was supposed to stop using the two-slice button immediately and that it’d be disabled and removed from the register screens by remote update in a few days.
I’m sure that made sense to someone at the corporate level, because they didn’t have to spent a minute or so changing a database entry themselves. (Did I mention that these sales change frequently? Have I mentioned yet that there are dozens of new ones every month?) To them, that man-minute of saved time totally justified adding an extra second to every two-slice sale at however many dozens or hundreds of locations had this problem, whether the customer was getting that soda or not, because the wasted time and irritation was ours and the customers’, not theirs.
I don’t use the term “negative externality” nearly as much as I could. It explains so many corporate policies.
Several weeks passed before the two-slice button was disabled, because as long as they were slacking anyway they might as well slack spectacularly.. And because they’re short-sighted in their laziness, it didn’t occur to them that the sale they hadn’t bothered to enter into the database had expired and they could, at that point, have left the button alone.
…although that management directive was accompanied by some chatter about other two-slice-and-something sales coming up which corporate anticipated not bothering to enter into the price database, either, so there’s that.