18 July 2011

No Sale

Check out this photo, which I snapped at the local grocery store using my handy-dandy, oh-so-fuzzy, 1.3 Megapixel camera phone.

In case it's not clear, this is a sign for a "SPECIAL!" sale - regular price is $6.99, now on sale for $6.99. Save 0 cents!

It got me thinking about the mental processes involved in placing this sign. I mean, someone decided to print this tag. Someone (probably a different someone?) put it on the shelf. Presumably the person who put it on the shelf looked at it, to make sure the food item it referred to was indeed on that shelf. And at no point did anyone say "I'm not going to do this because it doesn't make sense."

I bet the person who put up this sign (and a bunch of others) got credit for doing good work after all the signs were up.

If this was just about grocery store signage, it would hardly be worth mentioning. But it's actually a small example of a larger phenomenon. How often do we find ourselves doing stupid things for bad reasons? How often do we not read the signs we post on our metaphorical shelves, or (even worse) read them and put them up anyway.

Want to do something about it? Check out the book Hacking Work for a great tutorial on how to bend & break the stupid rules that try to get you to put up a sign like this.


Robert T. said...

Speaking as a long time retail manager, this is a result of an employee who is faced with the mundane task of putting up hundreds of signs. We put them up and customers only read the part of it they want to see. There's a good chance you are the only one who caught this mistake after fifty other people read it.

The Dan Ward said...

@Robert - I'm sure you're right. I imagine that after putting up 20 or 50 or 100 signs, I'd stop reading them too. And I'm sure I've gone past signs like this dozens of times.

My friends in the Lean / Process centric world tell me the solution is better processes... but I'm not sure about that. I'm thinking the solution probably has something to do with the design of the work, but more in the sense of engaging the people. Asking someone to put up hundreds of signs may sound efficient, but what if efficiency isn't all it's cracked up to be?