Sunday, May 17, 2015

Automated point of sale counters at the G.U. store

Automated POS Machines at GU Kawasaki

According to my wife, G.U. is the only place to buy decent quality clothes at a reasonable price in Japan. Last Saturday, we paid a visit to the G.U. store in Kawasaki. That's the one in the Dice building.

I hate shopping especially for clothes, so I took the kid for a walk around different floors in the Dice building. Once my wife had finished shopping, she called me back and asked me to pay for the clothes.

When I went to the area where the counters usually were, I could find any counters. Instead, there were few machines like ATMs scattered around that area. I watched from a distance and it seemed that you had to use them to make the payments. Luckily there was one person who was explaining to others how to operate the machines so I got in line with the queue.

What you have to do first of all is to open a little door in the bottom of the machine and put the clothes in it. Then you will be shown a screen to select (using your finger) if you are member of G.U store. This is due to the fact that they offer discounted prices on some items if you are a member. Since anyone can just say that he is a member, I suppose there is always someone there to confirm it. What you have to do to prove you are a member is just to open the G.U app on your mobile phone and browse to the Member's Page.

After that, the total price of the items will be magically shown on screen. I guess they all have RFID tags instead of the regular barcodes. Then you can choose to pay using cash or credit card. If you open for the credit card, which is my preferred method of payment wherever possible as I receive points, you have to swipe it by yourself. No need to put your signature in. (Some shops in Japan don't require the signature or the pin code for whatever reason.)

Once you've finished the payment, the receipt will be put out and you have to take the clothes out of the compartment in the bottom and go to the area where you put them in the shopping bags. You have to do it on your own though. They have bags with different sizes on the shelves and we have to pull out what we feel is big enough and put the clothes in the bag. Yes, they don’t put them into the bags. We – the customers – have to do it. It is actually a commonly observed practice in Japan, especially in Super Markets. I felt weird after experiencing it for the first time, soon after arriving in Japan. Sure, I’ve gotten used to it over the years, and I don’t mind it anymore.

I wonder why G.U. had done this. Perhaps they want to cut down the labour costs. This could lead to an increase in unemployment though. Or perhaps they feel this is a superior experience for the customer. Of course, if you are  foreigner, this is great, because hardly any Japanese person speaks English. Or perhaps this is for an experiment. Who knows? But I’m glad I could use one before leaving Japan.

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