Friday, August 19, 2011

A New Way To Grocery Shop!

I don't know if all economists love grocery shopping, but I do!  There are so many direct comparisons between the same or similar products.  I like to observe how I digest information to maximize my value and how other customers do as well.  My neighborhood just got a new Giant supermarket, and like most new supermarkets it has new bells and whistles!  One of these new additions is a totally new way to shop!  They are using Scan It technology.  I'll take you through the procedure!

This is the consol that has all the machines.  The user starts by scanning their grocery store card into a computer (to left on the picture above).  Then one of those scanner machines starts blinking and the user takes that one and begins shopping.  As you can see in the picture, they aren't especially popular yet.

Here is your new scanner.  You may have seen store employees carrying these around before, but now you can use one to scan groceries while you shop.  One nice thing and not-so nice thing about it is the ads.  I like them because I like ads in general.  The scanner knows where you are, and it knows where there are deals that the store is trying to promote.  It sends you ads based on your store position and what you've been shopping for.  For instance, if you just bought hot dogs, you might see an ad for a special on hot dog buns.  I think this is a great idea!

I have my hand basket, I've selected my item and I use the scanner.  It observes that this item is 1.69, which I can double check right there to see if the price is the same that lured me on the display.  It was correct.  I often have problems where the displayed price is one thing, but then when you get up to the register, it is another price.  Or it might say that the item is 30% off, but that the price will be discounted at the register and it isn't.  This allows you to ensure that the price you thought you would pay is the price you will pay.

You might challenge that some items don't have bar codes, so what do we do for things like produce that don't have bar codes.  The grocery store has deployed scales that you can weigh your produce on and they will produce a bar code with the result that you can scan.  Here's a weigh station in the produce aisle.

What do you do if you see another item that is more attractive than the one that you just scanned?  How do you remove the item from your list of grocery items?

It is very simple.  In the middle of the scanner, there is a "remove" widget next to a button (you can notice this button in earlier photos).  Push that button, and then scan the item on your list that you wish to remove and it removes it just as easy as that.

When you are ready to check out, you simply go to one of the self check out lines that they've started in the past decade or so.  Then insert your scanner back into it's station and scan your supermarket card again to indicate that you are through making purchase decisions.  It will access your shopping list and the totals will already be done because you've already scanned everything and you're already ready to make your payment.  You pay in the normal self-service fashion.

I found this process to be fun, but it also potentially saves the customer and the grocery store time.  For one thing, it is another aspect of self check-out, which saves them employee hours.  Having employees to scan groceries is one of the least productive jobs at the store, so saving those hours can help grocery stores cut costs.  Because the grocery store business is such a competitive market this savings will most likely be passed to consumers in the medium and long run.

I also like this because I feel more in control of my shopping.  Grocery shopping can easily be considered information overload, especially with prices.  This scanner cuts through that, by allowing you to instantly tell what the price of the item is.  This can be especially helpful in the meat section where there are many different but similar items and many many different but similar price tags and sales.  This scanner helps the consumer tell exactly what the price that they'll pay.


  1. I like your view of the process...i, however , consider it as being turned into an unpaid employee (checker) with zero benefits....

  2. I think when the process is fun people buy more. We'll see if it makes a difference - if they tell us! Maybe they will get these things at for the state fair?? Put your cheese curds, corndogs and mops on a scanner and pay when you leave! You could even purchase chances on predicting the winners of the animal judging contests - wouldn't that be fun?

  3. it's sort of like being turned into an unpaid employee, except we are paid *if* it saves us time. If it doesn't save us any time, then there isn't really a noticable payout for the customer. - JW