The cost of abandoned shopping carts is measurable

People in the biometric and banking industries like to use the word “frictionless.” It refers to the ability to make tasks such as building access and online purchases as easy as possible. When you make a purchase as hard as possible, it’s referred to as “friction.”

And we’ve all encountered friction online.

By Scooooly – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

(Type the TWO words?)

Provided that the transaction is secure, a frictionless transaction is preferable to a friction one. If you introduce too much friction into an operation, then the person trying to access a building or the person trying to complete an online transaction will give up. In the finance world, the online transaction is “abandoned,” sometimes after the potential buyer has already selected what they want to purchase. The end result is referred to in the industry as an abandoned shopping cart.

By Tim Reckmann from Hamm, Deutschland – Einkaufswagen, CC BY 2.0,

(And no, I don’t know the German for “abandoned,” but whatever it is, you can pair it with “Einkaufswagen” and come up with a really long description.)

At one point in my corporate career, I was looking at (virtual) abandoned shopping carts, and trying to figure out how digital identity mechanisms could reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts for online transactions. Any reduction would naturally translate to increased sales and increased profits for the online vendor.

Well, at this point in my post-corporate career, I was able to look at abandoned shopping carts from another perspective.

I abandoned a shopping cart this morning.

Not because of a horrendous CAPTCHA.

I abandoned it because the vendor wasn’t there.


When I started Bredemarket in 2020, one of the things that I did was open a business banking account. The process was a little complex because of raging COVID, since I had to submit all of my relevant documents online. (I also looked at THAT issue during my corporate years.)

As I finished setting up the account, my bank provided me with an offer for business checks. The offer was relatively expensive and didn’t include that many checks, but I didn’t care about that because I didn’t need that many checks anyway. In fact, after thinking about it, I decided that I didn’t need ANY checks. My business was just starting, and I couldn’t really afford to throw away money on extravagances such as bank checks.

And I got by for a while, until February 2022. I was considering a particular purchase from a small nonprofit, and I noticed that this small nonprofit didn’t take credit cards, or Zelle, or PayPal, or Venmo. (Or Bitcoin.) This nonprofit accepted payment in…checks.

So I decided that after a year, it’s time that Bredemarket had its own checks like all the cool companies have. I didn’t need that many, but obviously I was going to need one or two or a few.

So I logged in to my bank’s website to order some checks.

Now why would I log into the bank’s website to buy something that I knew was expensive? Again, the frictionless experience. It was worth some money to me to just go directly to my bank and order the expensive item, rather than having to hunt around for some other service and order the less expensive item. After all, my bank had all my information right there, so ordering checks through the bank should be a breeze, right?

Not exactly.

After logging in to my bank account nd searching through several places on the website, I finally found out that I could order checks. Not online on the bank’s own website, but via an 800 number belonging to the bank’s third party check printing partner.

So I called the 800 number…and was disconnected.

So I called the 800 number again.

(For those playing along at home, take a moment and count the number of instances of friction that I have encountered so far in making this purchase that I thought was going to be really really frictionless. There will be more instances as we go along.)

Now telephone customer service centers are wonderful things. (I should know, I just finished a job for a client that included a discussion of a telephone customer service center, and the CSC was a wonderful thing.) While I know of people who despite phone trees, they have the advantage of getting you help as soon as possible. And once you’re routed to the proper department, even if you’re not immediately helped, the phone trees often tell you either how many people are ahead of you in line, or approximately how long it will take before someone helps you. (The REALLY good phone trees take your number and call you back, so you don’t have to sit on hole.)

My bank doesn’t have a good phone tree.

I think I answered one or two simple questions at most, and then learned that all of their representatives were busy. I didn’t learn how many people were ahead of me in line. I didn’t learn how long it would take to answer my call. Instead, I was fed promotional stuff about some streamling TV special of some sort. I didn’t pay attention to the details, because I was thinking to myself:

John, why are you sitting on hold to buy expensive bank checks?

So I abandoned my shopping cart before I even had a chance to put anything into it.


I then went to the website of one of the major warehouse stores (the one that ISN’T based in Arkansas) where I had a personal membership, easily found the link in the business services section where I could order checks online, went to the warehouse store’s check vendor, and (in a fairly frictionless fashion) ordered checks for Bredemarket. The most typing that I did was to input my bank account routing information and account number, and input my warehouse membership number to get the warehouse discount. (My business address is saved in my browser. It’s not a huge security risk to do this.)

I immediately received two emails.

  • One was from the check vendor, with information about my order, including the items ordered, the anticipated delivery date, and a link to track the status of my order. (It’s in production.)
  • The other was from my bank, informing me that an online purchase had just been made from my bank account.

Unfortunately for the bank, it probably doesn’t have the advanced analytics to link that purchase from a check printing company to my unanswered phone call to the bank’s own check printing company a few minutes prior.

Because if the bank was able to put two and two together, it would realize that the money I paid to that check printing company could have gone to the bank’s check printing company instead.

But how to measure?

There’s one interesting wrinkle in the measurement of this abandoned shopping cart.

I never got to the point of receiving a price quote from the bank’s check printer, but from my hazy recollections from 2020, I think that the price that I paid for checks today was roughly half what the bank’s check printer would have charged me. (And I got more checks, but since I probably won’t use them all, that isn’t really a factor.)

So the warehouse’s check printer made a sale of $x, while the bank’s check printer lost a sale of roughly twice that amount, or $2x.

And I have an additional $x in my pocket which I wouldn’t have had if the bank’s check printer had answered its phone before I had second thoughts.

So what am I going to do with that $x?

Well, there’s that nonprofit, I guess…


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