I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine the sound that you hear a thousand million times in a supermarket at the check-out when an item's bar-code is scanned. I think I can be almost 100% certain that we are imagining the same sound because it is the same everywhere in the world.
I have one question.
Sitting waiting for some friends earlier in a Thai supermarket I tried to imagine how it came to be that someone chose this particular sound effect. Was there a committee meeting at which it was discussed? Did they try out a few different sounds and then decide on this one? Did they test several different sounds in a large room to find out which one would carry most effectively so that it could be heard everywhere in the building? Did they do a survey of people on the streets to find out which sound was most appealing to them? And how did they even think this sound up in the first place!? Did someone raise their hand in the meeting and say
"when items are scanned at the till, it would be wonderful if we could get the scanner to make a sort of 'piip' noise...how do you think we could make that?"
The ideas I came up with for alternatives for the 'piip' sound are as follows:
- a light flashes, different colours for different sorts of items.
- the whole floor vibrates.
- a spotlight comes down from the ceiling onto the cashier and/or customer.
- the name of the item is spoken loudly by the scanner in a pre-recorded Russian accent - particularly funny for buying embarrassing items!
- the scanner is attached to a pair of electronic dancing shoes worn by the cashier, that must perform involuntary tap dance moves each time a barcode is scanned.
It is frightening what bizarre things my mind can think of when it's late at night!