When things get used

There's a lot of stuff out there. A lot of stuff that gets designed, engineered, built, installed, but never used.

You know what I'm talking about - you see this stuff in stores all the time. Like the "Fastener Finder" at Home Depot. I tried touching the screen to begin, but immediately got stuck when I didn't know if I wanted wood screws, machine screws or drywall screws. Who uses this thing? If you're in the vast fastener aisle at Home Depot, you hopefully know which kind of screws you're looking for. And if you don't, why would you go through six menus when there are guys in orange aprons every ten feet?

Then there's the "Answer Phone" inside Sprint stores. It's a red phone on a small kiosk, where you can sit and, I'm assuming, get answers from someone (ideally someone who works for Sprint). This phone is deader than roadkill. Why would you want to call someone, when there are live people not five feet from said phone?

The point is, things don't get used when they aren't well-designed. And to be well-designed, something has to meet a real need. Where do you find real needs? You look all around you.

Trader Joe's knows what I'm talking about. They meet a need when they see one. For example, plenty of their customers are dog owners, and the city location means people are walking there. What were people doing with their dogs while they shopped for organic salmon and trail mix? I'm guessing it was one of three things. They either tied their dogs to parking meters (of which there are very few), brought their dogs inside (serious problems spring to mind), or left them at home. I bet they left them at home.

So Trader Joe's now has the Doggie Dock. It's got ample hooks to tie your dog, space for it to walk around, and even a bowl of water. Does it cost a lot of money? No. Does it meet a real need? Yes.

Does it get used? You bet.


Elliott said...

Like PetCo and Petsmart that let you bring your pet inside the store so that it can try things out. My sister has this big fat white cat and she went in there and plonked him on the counter so that he could get a harness leash that actually fit him.

Stacy said...

I agree--if I knew that dogs were being brought into Trader Joe's, I'd think twice about trying the free samples. You wouldn't want to see a dog traipsing around a restaurant! This is a much better solution that alienating your customers by kicking them (and their dogs) out.