Food shopping has gotten a lot more fun
If you are of a certain age (or over), there is at least some chance you remember the flying fingers of the grocery clerk who punched cash register keys to enter and total the price of your groceries.
Then, there were bar codes and the clerk passed your items over a pane of glass set into the checkout counter. A computer recorded the prices of your items and produced a total. Eventually, there were automatic checkout counters where you passed bar-coded items over the glass and put your bills into a slot, the change being dispensed through another slot and a coin tray, the receipt spit out automatically.
And now? Well, now you can wander the market like some grocery gunslinger, clutching in your shooting hand a sort of “gun” with an elongated handle and a bulbous head with a screen.
The gun, actually a hand-held laser scanner, which the Stop & Shop grocery store chain calls “EasyShop,” lets you be your own check out clerk.
You activate the scanner with your Stop & Shop card. Aim the laser at an item’s bar code, hit a button and the item is entered into a running total on your screen.
Buying loose produce? Place those green beans on an electronic scale, hit the right picture on a touch screen, and the scale prints a bar code you can scan.
You bag your groceries as you go (the store provides the bags) and check out by plugging the scanner into a device at the register. Pay and leave.
“I use it every time,” said Sharon Dussault of Fall River, shopping on Friday at the Somerset Super Stop & Shop on GAR Highway.
“It’s very convenient,” she said. “When I get to the counter, my order’s already bagged and I’m ready to go.”
Dussault was also fond of the running total feature.
“I’ve spent this much,” she said, pointing to the screen. “I have a $10 coupon, so I can spend another $10.”
There’s room for error, too.
“You can scan something and if you change your mind you can remove it,” she said.
While the EasyShop system is useful, it also has its entertainment value.
“It’s fun,” said Melissa Dube of Somerset, shopping with her mom Dawn.
“It’s easy,” said Dawn Dube. “The coupons are built in.”
Dawn Dube exhibited the screen of her scanner. There, in color, was a coupon offering money off a bag of frozen french fries.
“I never had any trouble with it,” Dawn Dube said. “Not even the first time.
“The vegetables you have to weigh but even that isn’t hard,” she said.
Like Dussault, Dawn Dube was bagging her own groceries as she went along the aisles.
“You bag it yourself and it’s so fast at the register,” she said.
“My little ones love it. They’re running all over the store looking for things to scan.”
Denise Procaccini and her husband Dave, both of Somerset, were doing some very fast shopping, since they had an appointment in about 20 minutes.
“This is my second time using it,” said Dave Procaccini. “It’s very easy.”
“I use it every time,” agreed Dawn Procaccini. “It’s quick.”
For Stop & Shop, use of the device represents what the company hopes will be competitive advantage.
“We’re the only one doing it,” said Stop & Shop Spokesman Robert Keane. “Since October, it’s been put into 90 of our stores.
“We’re happy to be setting the trend,” Keane said, adding that, as far as he knows, no other grocery store chain seems to be contemplating the new devices.
“It definitely differentiates us from the competition,” he said.
Keane said customers are embracing the technology. On Friday at the Somerset Stop & Shop, while plenty of people were not using the new device, no one could be found who had tried it and not liked the experience.
Keane said that in addition to speed at the register, the EasyShop system allows shoppers to order products at the delicatessen via touch screen and then continue shopping.
When the deli product is ready, the EasyShop user is sent a message that appears on the device’s screen.
Keane said the new device goes some way toward automating the grocery process but there is still a register and a clerk for those who prefer to shop as they have always shopped. Keane said the new device has not cost anyone his or her job.
“This isn’t about reducing head count,” he said. “If you don’t want to bag groceries, you don’t have to.”
E-Mail Marc Munroe Dion at firstname.lastname@example.org.