I live in the US and retailers have been slowly rolling out new check out terminals called EMV checkouts. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa. A brief definition can be found below.
EMV is a technical standard for smart payment cards and for payment terminals and automated teller machines that can accept them. EMV cards are smart cards (also called chip cards or IC cards) which store their data on integrated circuits rather than magnetic stripes, although many EMV cards also have stripes for backward compatibility. They can be contact cards that must be physically inserted (or "dipped") into a reader, or contactless cards that can be read over a short distance using radio-frequency identification (RFID)technology. Payment cards that comply with the EMV standard are often called chip-and-PIN or chip-and-signature cards, depending on the exact authentication methods required to use them. - Source
While I am all for increasing the security of retailer check outs, and this is certainly a better method than the classic magnetic strip one thing seemed to be overlooked. The error message. Listen below.
You see as a customer proceeds to check out and tries to use their new EMV chip enabled card through the classic magnetic strip method both the customer and retail check out employee are greeted with this gnarly error sound.
Now serving some time in retail in the early part of my career I empathize with them, but more importantly the user of the credit card will be annoyed and frustrated through the process. The check out process is supposed to be smooth, quick, and secure. Really much of the process as of early 2016 in the US is none of these things. Also when recording at this particular station, the employee keenly pointed out the above sound is used for both error and confirmation sounds.
Meaning if I swipe a EMV enable card incorrectly I am greeted with the sound. Now lets say I realize I have a chip enabled card, and insert it properly then after my transaction is complete and it is time for me to take my card out I am also greeted with the EMV error message sound above. Surely this can be improved. By having it this way we are loosing the association with the sound, be it annoying as it is.
One particular user interface that does user feedback sound great in my opinion is Google's Android Marshmallow. Here is what Google has suggested for the error message on stock Android devices. On that comes to mind that might work in the vein of is either the "Low Battery" sound or the "NFC Failure" sound. Take a listen to each below.
The trick in the design of this alert is to be noticeable enough to new users but pleasant enough to the people working these stations day in and day out. While these were designed for use with people holding the device close and more than likely in a quite environment, the error sound shouldn't annoy the customer or the person manning the station.
Now after going through all of this what will help make this better? I think one giant leap forward would be having a true error message and another to reward and alert the user for using the checkout properly. Then the argument could be made for the gnarly error sound design (sorry retail employees). Another thought would be as station technology advances there could be a solution with just requiring the user to swipe the card instead of inserting it for a period of time. ATMs saw this 10-15 years ago. None of these solutions are perfect, but some minor tweaks to audio design could go a long way in improving the customers experience during check out.