When I stopped by the supermarket on Monday I was accosted by a fellow in a bright
red "Red Sox" jersey
and a well-dressed woman. They asked me if I wanted to try out the new shopping
system, so of course I said "yes." That's how I roll.
The new system involves a hand-held scanner. I handed over my shopper's card to be
scanned into the system and it associated the scanner to my card. I had to agree to a
few terms, a little more about that later.
As the woman placed some empty shopping bags into my cart, the fellow explained the
system to me. As I take an item off the shelf, I scan the barcode, and then place
my item in one of my bags. Effectively, I would be scanning my items and bagging them
as I shopped.
The scanner will give me a running total of my order and a list of the items I'd
bagged. If I wanted to remove an item, I press a "remove" button and then rescan the
barcode before placing
the item back on the shelf.
For produce, the system is a little more involved. I choose my produce and place it
on one of the new scales that are positioned at the end of all the produce bins. Then
I punch in the 4-digit code for that item and the scale weighs the produce. For items
that are sold by unit, I enter the number of items. Then I press a "print" button
which prints out a sticker with an appropriate barcode for that produce
item. I scan that barcode and then bag the
item in my cart.
I thanked him and got to it.
I started with the produce aisle. Since the new system is a little cumbersome for
produce, I found I was spending more time in that section than in other parts of the
store. But things went smoothly (except for one scale that had run out of
After a few minutes, while the scanner was sitting in my cart, it emitted a beep and
I saw the the bottom of the screen was telling me about a sale item in this week's
It didn't look like a lot of people were trying out this new technology, and I got
some weird looks from people ad I went around pointing the scanner at things and
bagging them in my cart.
When I was finished, I went to one of the self-checkouts which had a poster with a
picture of the scanner on it. There is a special barcode on the poster
that you scan to indicate the end of your order. You now have a chance to scan any
items (like checkout-line impulse purchases) and run your credit card or other form
I returned the scanner to the two folks who greeted me at the entrance and gave them
a generally positive review of the technology, which worked very smoothly.
For large orders, scanning each item as you put it in the basket means reducing
the number of times you tough the item. This saves time. Instead of moving the item
from shelf to basket to checkout belt to basket and then to your car, you simply
move it from the shelf, to your cart and then into your car.
If you like to use reusable bags, this works well. I hate having my reusable
bags in my cart, lying there uselessly while I shop. And I feel strange about
bagging items that I'm going to have to unbag when I get to the
checkout. With this system, if you have your own bags, you can use them right
It's nice to see a running total of how much money you're spending on the
If you're unsure about the price of something, you get an immediate answer, and
it's easy to put the item back on the shelf if you change your mind.
Your loose produce is weighed precisely while you're still in the produce
section. If you want a pound of green beans, you can get a pound of them. It's easy
to adjust your amounts because the beans are right there.
If other people are using this system, no more long waits in the checkout lane
while the slowpoke in front of you decides that bagging is a Zen experience best
done at the speed of chilled molasses.
Less pressure to buy impulse items in the checkout
I can put my ice cream in a cooler or freezer bag right away.
For every produce item, before you bag, you have to go to a scale. This is a
lot of walking back and forth if you buy a lot of produce, and possibly a
bottleneck if other people are, too. You could work around this by having separate
areas in your cart for scanned and unscanned
items. Grab three different produce items and take them all to a scale. But that
slightly breaks the model.
Small learning curve may mean you will encounter confused people. It may also
mean you're thinking about the scanner and forgetting you need buttermilk.
Not good for small orders. If you have a handbasket, you probably
want to skip the scanner. It's really only useful if you're pushing a cart. I don't
like to use a cart all the time because you can't maneuver as well around the
THE MAN KNOWS WHAT YOU'RE BUYING! Not a big concern for me, truth be told.
How are they going to prevent theft? That's one of the things that you agree to when
you use the system. They do random audits of people using the scanner. So far,
apparently, they haven't seen much theft. The stuff you agree to with the new scanner
is not much different from what you agree to by using a shopper's card in the first
Have dedicated hand-scanner aisles. I wandered a bit looking for a free aisle.
It defeats a lot of the purpose of hand-scanning if I have to get in line behind
two people who didn't.
Have some sort of easy-pay option. Other Stop & Shop stores have this, but
not our local. Associate my credit card with my shopper's card so that when I scan
"end of order" I can then press "easy pay" and it goes directly to my credit card.
Then I just take my receipt and walk out.
I'll definitely use the hand scanner again, especially for larger orders. I'm all for
increased checkout efficiency, because I hate time wasted at the supermarket.
If you've tried the system, let me know what you think. Posted by James at November 13, 2007 2:11 PM