Techno-grocer: Giant puts customers in control

news-giantscannersGiant employee Wanda Maupin demonstrates a new produce scale that prints out bar code labels.

Harris Teeter has online grocery shopping at Hollymead Towne Center and at its new Crozet location. Food Lion recently renovated all its stores, going upscale with extensive organic sections. Now Giant's looking to trump competitors with a new service dubbed "Scan-It" that could virtually eliminate check-out lines by letting customers have their groceries tallied and bagged before they ever reach the check-out.

"It made the shopping experience more fun and makes grocery shopping easier with a child," says Pantops Giant patron Katie Hartwell, who discovered the Scan-It service shortly after it launched at Pantops on April 21. (It's been available at Seminole Square since December.)

How does it work? A rack of the purple scanners sits inside each entrance. Customers stock up on bags supplied alongside the scanners (or bring their own), enter their Giant bonus card number or a phone number into the scanner, then carry on with shopping, scanning each item before placing it in a bag in the cart. The scanners offer discounts along the way based either on previous shopping habits or on the aisle a customer is currently shopping. A running tally is kept inside the handheld gizmo, which Hartwell notes helped keep her inside her budget. Special scales print barcodes for produce.

One of the main benefits of Scan-It: check-out time is slashed, even compared to the usually short self-check-out lines available at all major grocery stores. At check-out, a shopper using Scan-It does one final scan of an oversized bar code posted above the touchscreen at each one of the self-check-out lines. The total due appears on the screen, the customer pays and leaves immediately, since the groceries are already bagged.

"We estimate it takes about three minutes to check out," says Giant employee Wanda Maupin.

Hartwell calls it "efficient," but wonders if it might encourage less up-standing shoppers to bag a few groceries they haven't actually scanned.

"We haven't seen an increase in shoplifting," says Roger Gatewood, front end manager of the Seminole Square store where Scan-It's been in place for five months. The store does conduct random audits, during which a shopper's receipt is matched to the items in their bags after check-out, says Gatewood.

Another question Gatewood's been asked: are the scanners a cheap replacement for human employees?

Cost-cutting "is not what it's about," he says. The store determines how many cashiers are needed based on sales, he says. Since the self-scanners were implemented, sales have gone up, says Gatewood, and cashiers have added hours to their schedules and are now on-hand to assist customers as needed.

"One of the goals is for customers to get in and get out on time," says Gatewood, "to not have to worry about standing in line."


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Actually...the random audits aren't a big deal...and they take place BEFORE you pay. It happened to me once. When you go to check out the light will flash and the screen says "please wait for assistance." A cashier came over and scanned a few random items in my cart. When she was done she cleared the flashing light and I was on my way. It was painless, and I can't fault them for doing it. I definitely enjoy the system!

So I get to pay higher prices and checkout/bag the groceries myself? Yeah right.
Give me an extra 20% discount and I may think about it.

I don't mind getting checked, it helps keeps costs down if they make sure people are stealing. If you don't want to get checked, don't use the technology. Wait in line to check out.

Reading comprehension check, pthomas:

"The store does conduct random audits, during which a shopper’s receipt is matched to the items in their bags after check-out, says Gatewood."

The story clearly states the "audit" is a search of your property after checkout, not a store employee assisting you while you use the self-check terminal. That was the subject of my comment.

DadofTwo, if you don't mind being checked, you can continue showing your receipt and I can continue refusing to show mine. But by letting employees search your bags, you're not helping them catch any shoplifters unless you personally have stolen. Likewise, I'm not preventing the apprehension of a thief by going unsearched, because I didn't take anything.

You pay for your groceries, they're put in bags indicating that you paid, and less than a minute later, door guards want to search your stuff to make sure you didn't steal. Does this sound rational and reasonable to anyone? Didn't think so.

Costco and Sam's are private membership clubs. Members sign a contract agreeing to those searches, which would explain why you've never seen anyone object. A supermarket or discount store such as Wal-Mart has no such contract with its customers.

I take it that SmartShopper has never shopped at Costco or Sam's, where they check your cart as you leave - after you've paid - and I've never seen anyone object

Martin's in Waynesboro has been doing this since they opened 2 years ago...and they never have enough people working the checkout so this is always the best option.

Random audits? What a nice way to say searches! Many retail stores are instituting receipt and bag checks, to the chagrin and irritation of honest shoppers who don't feel like having their bags rifled through less than a minute after checkout.

Here's the scoop: When you buy something, it becomes your personal property. Stores can't inspect that property without your permission, and they can't legally prevent you from leaving unless they have proof that you've committed a crime. Next time they ask to see your receipt, just say no, thank you and keep on walking!