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Food Shopping and the 'It' Factor

The sight of this kiosk makes me happy. (Giant)

I shop for recipe-testing ingredients every day. (That's a big Oy.) Sometimes the hunt for specific foods or brands takes me to specialty stores as well as supermarkets, but I'm in and out of my local Giant at least 4 times a week.

That's why I'm about ready to make my own macrame holster for the Scan It! device I pick up at the start of my Giant rounds. It reads the bar code on each item and keeps a running tab of my purchases, which I load directly into the reusable shopping bags in my cart. At checkout time, I hit the shortest self-checkout line and aim the device at the required spot, and the total comes up in an instant.

Last week I clocked my eight-item foray at nine minutes flat (including one stop at a Weigh It! station in the produce department), listening to my iPod tunes the whole way; no chatting required.

When the hand-held scanners were introduced in Stop and Shop stores in the Northeast a few years ago, customers liked them but Giant held off. The technology was designed to get us in and out of the store in a timely fashion (and no doubt eliminate some jobs). Now the company is interested in greater "differentiation" from its competitors, and has installed the system in 50 of its Washington area and Delaware stores, says spokesman Jamie Miller, as each store undergoes a facelift. Customers at the Rockville store (at Montrose Crossing) were the first to use them locally. Miller says feedback continues to be positive, that no one walks off with Scan It!s and that there have been no increased reports of unscanned items finding their way into bags.

On Monday night, a shopping dad told me he likes taking the kids along when he Scans It!; "they can point, shoot and stay entertained," he said. "I love it." (I guess I could do without the occasionally ka-chings, which remind shoppers about various deals on the aisle.)

One thing to keep in mind: Miller says the system can't target specific customers, but I've been told by customers and store personnel that some random spot checks -- in which a Giant checker will run through the purchases in the bag to make sure they're all accounted for on the tally -- tend to happen to those who may have consistently failed to scan an item or two in their cart.

Has Scan It!, Weigh It! or the deli department's Order It! changed the way you shop at Giant, or Bloom or other grocery stores? It must be displacing some checkout employees, but honestly, I can't see another downside.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

By The Food Section  |  April 29, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
 | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, shopping  
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The price shooter is an interesting gimmick for an easy in easy out to pick up a few things, but like the self checkout line, it is not helpful if you have some serious shopping to do. Multiples (e.g., 36 cans of cat food on sale this week) must be individually scanned. The professional live checkout persons can key in the number of multiples and the scanners they have in their aisles are much more efficient - They don't have to wait for the scanner's computer voice to say "Please place your broccoli on the belt. Savings, forty three cents." before it resets for the next item. Unfortunately, there will be only one staffed checkout line open at any time, and the line will be several shoppers long, meaning you will spend more total time in line than if you plod through the cumbersome process at the self-checkout. It is very frustrating to be a customer now - so much wonderful merchandise beautifully displayed, but no functioning way to actually pay for any of it.

Posted by: twixler | April 29, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The Scan It gun is a great invention. I like the ease of rining things up and speed of checkout.

My boyfriend adores it. He is entertained each time we go to the local Giant and he gets to use "the gun." I guess it counts as a gadget in his book.

Posted by: DCDeb1 | April 29, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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