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Archive for Sunday, June 17, 2007

Scan-as-you-shop a hit with buyers

June 17, 2007

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Clare Grasso uses a personal scanner to buy groceries as she shops at Bloom grocery store March 1 in Laurel, Md.

Clare Grasso uses a personal scanner to buy groceries as she shops at Bloom grocery store March 1 in Laurel, Md.

— Stephanie Cerneck doesn't go through the checkout line at her supermarket anymore. Or even the self-checkout line.

She uses a personal scanner offered by the Bloom grocery store near her home, scanning each item as she takes it off the shelf and bagging as she shops. When she's done, she pays at a terminal at the front of the store.

"When I come up to the checkout, everything's already bagged, I go to my car, I'm done. No waiting in line," she said at the suburban store between Washington and Baltimore.

The handheld scanner lets customers keep a running tally as they work their way through the aisles, allowing them to spend more time shopping and less time waiting to check out.

Today, personal scanners are more common in Europe, but their use is growing in the United States as grocers introduce high-tech tools that promise to make shopping more convenient and seem less like a chore.

In Maryland, scanners are available at Bloom stores in Scaggsville and Rockville and a Martin's Food Market in Eldersburg.

Scales with printers let customers create bar-coded tags for fruits, vegetables and other produce that isn't priced. Bloom stores also have computerized kiosks that print out recipes and a map showing where the ingredients can be found.

Once shopping is finished, customers head to the front of the store - a process that involves scanning a bar code generated by the personal scanner, swiping a personal card and - of course - paying. Shoppers are randomly picked for audits to ensure items haven't been placed in the shopping cart without being scanned.

Karen Peterson, a Food Lion spokeswoman, said the subsidiary of Brussels-based Delhaize Group has the scanners in about half of its 52 upscale Bloom stores and shoplifting has not been a problem.

The company offers the scanners to give its customers "another option in the way they like to shop."

"It saves time, they can watch what they're spending, it's a convenience," Peterson said.

Tracy Pawelski, spokeswoman for Martin's parent company Giant Food Stores LLC, said 11 Martin's stores offer scanners.

The scanners are "purely about convenience for customers" and do not replace store employees, who can be deployed elsewhere in the store, Pawelski said.

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