Monday, November 19, 2007
Stop & Shop's new 'Personal Check-Out Tool'
I went to Stop and Shop yesterday to get my weekly groceries. I discovered they are testing out a new 'personal check out tool:' a handheld device which allows customers to scan their own groceries as they shop, then instantly put them in their shopping bags. At the end, you scan your Stop and Shop card and pay using a machine- no interaction with a cashier. There is no need to put the groceries back on the conveyor belt and have the cashier scan them in. The main objective for Stop and Shop is to cut down on employees, which is only my assumption and not what I was told when given the personal scanner.
I was skeptical at first, since I'm fonder of human interaction at the grocery store and being greeting by the cashiers at the end. But, in reality, Stop and Shop in my experience isn't known for their friendliness, at least not compared to the overly personal Whole Paycheck, ahem, Whole Foods.
So, I took the hand held scanner and went about getting the things on my list. The hardest thing was scanning the fruits and vegetables. I had to place each fruit/vegetable on a digital scale, look up the product number, enter it in, enter in the number of items, and then print out a barcode- in the form of a sticker that I then stuck on the fruit/vegetable. I then needed to scan the barcode. It took a few tries, because when it asked for the number of items, I entered 1, but then there would be a delay, so I would press 1 again, which would then turn into 11. After pressing 'clear,' the whole system cleared and I would have to find the product number again and start over. But, after 3 tries, I became an 'expert.'
Thankfully I know my fruits and vegetables, but, I can imagine someone grabbing an unknown product that they wanted to try and having a difficult time identifying it. Perhaps in the future, there will be smart scales, which would know what the fruit/vegetable was without you having to type in the product number. Or, S&S could go the Trader Joe's way and have everything pre-packaged. Which, I would very much dislike. Another, easier solution, would be to go "old-school style" with the fruits and vegetables section, and have someone there to weigh them and put bar codes on them for you.
One of the things I liked about the experience was that I became very aware of how much things cost and how much my total bill was at all times. Also, I liked carrying the device around, it was nicely designed, and it made the shopping experience seem like a game.
The checkout experience went surprisingly smooth. I was always afraid of those self-checker isles. But, all I had to do was to scan the 'end checkout' bar code, scan my Stop and Shop card, and select 'Debit card.' The rest was the usual experience of sliding my card in the slot and entering my number. I also found that since I partook in this experience, I was giving $3 back.
While I was shopping, I imagined how easy it would be for someone to steal food using this method. I was only told a random search may happen after checkout (which didn't end up happening). Perhaps in the future, everything will have RFID tags, so the store would know if you did not scan a product.
Another future problem is that there was only one electronic scale. If many people were shopping with the personal scanners, their would need to be many of these electronic scales. I could imagine waiting in line to use one and being really annoyed.
There wasn't a smiling cashier to wish me a good day, but, there usually isn't. I bring my bike bag instead of using paper or plastic, and most of the time I end up having to repack it anyway. So, this definitely saved me some time. Afterwards, I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up my specialty items (goat cheese is surprisingly cheaper at Whole Foods than S&S) and got my weekly dose of smiling bakers, butchers, and cheese makers.