Easy handheld checkout coming to a store near you?


Two years ago, I talked with unbridled enthusiasm about an experiment in the Washington D.C. area and elsewhere that I thought would revolutionize shopping at grocery stores.

At that time, The Washington Post reported Giant Food was testing out handheld price scanners in 60 of its grocery stores. Shoppers were using the scanners to ring themselves up as they would put an item into their grocery cart. The device typically would attach to the cart when not in use.

I loved this idea because who wants to wait in long checkout lines and unload your groceries onto a conveyor belt, just to have them rung up and put back in your cart? With the scanner system, you ring yourself up all along and then simply take your cart and the handheld device to a pay station to checkout. 

Now The Wall Street Journal  reports this experiment has steadily grown. Other retailers like Nordstrom and Home Depot are even trying out the devices.

More recently, Stop & Shop has been testing Scan It!, a handheld device that also has a mobile app companion. Wal-Mart, meanwhile, is testing similar technology where you’re able to use  an app on your smartphone to scan the bar code of items as you put them in your cart. When you get to the front of the store, you go to a central cashier and pay for the items. Then an employee counts your items as you’re leaving to make sure you didn’t forget to ring anything up.

Early criticisms of these systems said they would lead to increased shoplifting. So far, that has not been an issue. Random security checks of people’s carts have been sufficient deterrent to potential criminals. (Besides, the overwhelming majority of us are honest people. And even with traditional checkout, you can have shoplifting.)

One shopper quoted in the Journal article said she now saves 20 minutes each shopping trip thanks to this new technology. Boy, those checkout lines must be really slow at her store!

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