Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Anti-Patterns in a Crappy Bagel Shop

When anti-patterns happen in the real world, they are just as infuriating. Thus my annoyance at a cash-only deli that was not really cash-only but still managed to actually tax me for not knowing this.

I’m as fascinated as any other content-phreak/UX-slut/webtard by dark patterns and anti-patterns, those nefarious gremlins deliberately baked into interfaces to trick users. There are many, many examples of this in the online world. Occasionally, anti-patterns happen in the real world too.

This weekend, I found a bagel/sandwich deli that struck me as a fine example of a meatspace anti-pattern. The shop had OK selection, kind of pricey, nothing special. (Boar’s Head signage plastered on every wall is compensation for actual quality selection.) I made an order, about $15 of food. When I went to pay with my card — cue Visa commercial — the employee tells me that they are a cash-only shop.

I’ve been to many a cash-only place, and cash-only delis in New Jersey are as common as any NJ stereotype. These places clearly declare this. Either outside or by the counter, usually both, there’s a giant hand-written sign that says CASH ONLY. You can even hear the neighborly Italian-American accent in the handwriting; it might as well say YO CASH ONLY TRY THE PROSCIUTTO FUCK THE YANKEES.

At this particular joint, there was a credit card machine. I pointed this out. The employee, a pancake-faced girl wearing a pristine Penn State sweatshirt, kindly pointed to a small pink sign next to the other register not being used that had these words typed in Times New Roman:

All orders under $30 MUST be cash only.

This is a rule, not a fact. Of course they can take my payment with a card, they just don’t want to because of credit card fees. With cash, they’re making cash. Any person who’s ever received payment via PayPal can readily understand the feeling of getting inappropriately fondled in the piggy bank; over time, it’s thousands of dollars of profit for a small business. My sympathies here.

What does piss me off, and no doubt countless other customers, is the girl’s finger, pointing to the back of the deli, where sits a glittering ATM the color of Joker’s hair that charges a $2.50 you’re-a-sucker fee. Thus the Devil’s trick of converting expenses into effortless profit via the death and dismemberment of customer experience.

All this did not stop me from ordering my bagels in the same way a hemorrhoid is not going to stop me from pooping, but the feeling was about the same.

, , ,

commentary + criticism

Ross Johnson

wrote the following on Sunday July 29, 2012

Actually it’s illegal to have a credit card minimum above $10, not that it stops shops from trying to enforce them.