Scanner's In Customers' Hands In Market's Do-it-yourself Lane
May 29, 1986|By Martin Sloane, United Features Syndicate
Imagine a supermarket asking you to ring up your own groceries.
I can almost hear readers saying, ''That's the last straw! Many supermarkets have already made shopping more difficult by taking all the prices off the cans and boxes. And now they want us to ring up our own purchases? Insanity!''
Or is it?
It makes a lot of sense to the shoppers at Ream's Superstore in American Fork, Utah.
A year ago, the store installed four of its own U-Scan terminals along a new counter built at the front of the store. Shoppers take their groceries up to the terminal and pass the Universal Product Code on each item across the scanner. In front of the shopper is a monitor screen that registers each item and shows the last nine items that have been rung up. As each item is rung up, a subtotal shows how much has been purchased. When Neldon Johnson, operations manager for Ream's, told me about his do-it-yourself scanning system, it sounded like a self-service gasoline station.
''It is similar,'' said Johnson. ''After a shopper has passed all the items across the scanner, the shopper goes to our cashier. The cashier has a receipt waiting, takes the customer's money and makes change.''
I asked Neldon about perishables.
''We weigh them in the produce department and put Universal Product Codes on each package or bag. And if there is any problem in ringing up an item, the cashier is ready to help.
''When we installed the first four of our U-Scan terminals a year ago, we thought they would be used by shoppers who had just a few items and wouldn't mind handling their own scanning in order to get out of the store more quickly, but . . . almost half our customers now prefer to use the U-Scan terminals.''
Why is the scan-it-yourself system so popular?
''First, we take one percent off a shopper's total bill just for using the U-Scan,'' Johnson explained. ''But we find that most of our customers enjoy using the terminals, because of the control it gives them. They can carefully watch as each item is rung up, and they can watch the subtotal to be sure they stay within their budget.''
I asked him what other advantages the scan-it-yourself terminals offered.
''Our customers are also spotting more of the pricing errors that occasionally appear in our computer system. They run the item's Universal Product Code across the scanner, and if the price that comes up on the monitor screen is not what they expected, they ask the cashier for the correct price.''