Grab and go, on the honor system

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports lately. With the lack of food on planes, I’m often looking to grab a sandwich or a soda. Inevitably, I end up behind 8 people who want their triple decaf mocha ventis with skim. (I don’t drink coffee, so I’m not sure that’s a real order.) My stomach growls as I see the pre-packaged sandwiches ready to be taken. More often than not, I skip the line and go hungry.

There’s an easy solution to this — self-service check out for those who want pre-packaged items. Scan your order, slide your credit card and go.

P1000061I ran into a version of this today in downtown DC. At Pedro and Vinny’s burrito cart, you place your order and he hands you your burrito. It’s up to you to figure out how much you owe him and put it in the box. They don’t take credit cards, so you have to root through a pile of money to get your change. (He does ask that $20s go in a separate box.)

The honor system ends up in more profit. Because there’s only one guy working the cart, he doesn’t waste time making change and can sell more burritos faster. This prevents the really long lines that scare away customers.

If you turn away a customer, you’re out the price of the item. At the airport, the price of the sandwich and a drink is $8-$10. If someone steals from you, you’re out the cost of goods, probably $2-$3. It’s better to get the sales volume.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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2 Responses to Grab and go, on the honor system

  1. Adam says:

    Interesting! I actually read about a donut (or maybe bagel?) cart guy doing this in NYC about two years ago… and he was successful for exactly the same reasons you give here.

    I’m surprised that more folks haven’t figured this out…

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