Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Puh-leeze Read the Signs

The car wash I use has an automated pay station located slightly around the corner from the entrance to the car wash itself. You pay, and then a large green arrow lights up when the car wash is ready for you to drive in. There is a large, clear sign on the pay station: WAIT HERE UNTIL GREEN ARROW LIGHTS UP. So I watched with amusement as every car ahead of me paid, then plowed ahead and waited inches from the closed door to the wash. Of course eventually the sequence of payments got totally screwed up and the wash wouldn't open at all until the cashier came over the intercom and got things re-aligned, reminding everyone of what the sign said. Sigh.

Why don't people read the signs? We've all had the customer who spots you in the pharmacy and pounds on the window "ARE YOU OPEN??" when their pounding fist is literally inches away from the sign that states the pharmacy hours of operation. Public places, including medical clinics and pharmacies, are full of signs that are gleefully ignored:

Pick Up
Drop Off
Please present insurance card with prescription
For the privacy of the person ahead, please remain behind this sign
Please check in with pharmacy staff if your prescription has been sent by your doctor
Leave lab slip here, ring bell once, have a seat

.. and so on

Someone I know who works in a museum always stresses the importance of signage.
Its purpose is to give people direction in an unfamiliar place and to improve the success of that place by keeping people moving efficiently through it. But you've got to stop for just a minute and READ -- you've got to take just a second and OBSERVE, and that's the problem.

We deal with lots of people who are distracted and in a rush. There are lots of non-English speakers too (although many of our signs are in multiple languages.) I think there is a subset of people who just outright refuse to 'follow' the signs, though. You can spot them a mile away. One good example is the alpha male type who isn't going to be told what to do and certainly isn't going to be part of the 'herd.' It's ME first, and I don't have time to read your silly signs so you will have to give ME your personal attention. These are the ones I dislike the most. Nobody's trying to boss you around, your Royal Highness, we're just trying to make things run a little smoother. Just take a second and read the sign.

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