PORTLAND, Ore. — Grocery shopping has gone high tech. The latest innovation involves wireless hand-held scanners. Customers scan and bag items as they shop.
By the end of this week, Fred Meyer will have introduced the “Scan, Bag, Go” technology at 28 stores in Oregon and Washington.
So how does this new technology, aimed at speeding up your grocery shopping compare to other options like self-checkout or a store clerk?
To find out, KGW conducted an informal, non-scientific test. Reporter Kyle Iboshi visited a Fred Meyer store in Clackamas with a shopping list of 26 different items. Here’s what he found:
Scan, Bag, Go
Total Time: 23 minutes, 42 seconds.
This was my first time using “Scan, Bag, Go”. The hand-held scanner seemed fairly intuitive, but required a brief five-minute explanation from a Fred Meyer employee.
“It’s pretty fun. Some people look at it as a video game in the store," explained LylaJean Walters, a customer service employee at Fred Meyer. “Once you get the hang of it, it’s going to save you a lot of time."
I agree. The scanner was kind of fun. Every time I picked up an item, I scanned it and put it in a shopping bag.
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There was some juggling. I found myself looking for somewhere to put the scanner down as I picked up items and reshuffled bags in the cart.
The only real slowdown was in the produce section. Here you’ve got to scan the vegetables and then take them over to the scale. The scanner will tell you which items to weigh, then you place them back in your cart. The process takes a bit but I can see how you’d get better at it.
After wrapping up my shopping, I took my cart to the self-checkout kiosk. I scanned the barcode and it quickly displayed an entire list of my purchases. All I had to do was pay the bill. The groceries were already bagged up and ready to go.
Total Time: 18 minutes, 13 seconds.
This is nothing new. I’ve used it before. I’d have to ring up every item at the self-checkout kiosk.
For this test, I’d retraced our earlier steps. First, produce, then the meat season and then, on through the rest of the store.
The shopping definitely moved faster because I wasn’t stopping to scan every item. I wasn’t juggling a hand-held device.
The shopping moved quickly, until I reached the checkout kiosk. Here I had to scan every item. Sometimes I needed help from a clerk because the kiosk warned that I put something into a bag prematurely. Also, I had to look up a few vegetables before I weighed them.
Generally, I would not suggest this option if you have a cart full of groceries, but for a few items it’s pretty quick.
Checkout stand using a clerk
Total Time: 14 minutes, 13 seconds.
For our final test, we went back to the basics. I’d shop for the items and then let a store clerk do all the work at the checkout stand.
Again, we went through our entire list of 26 items and followed the same trail around the store. Every item was in the same place, so this test really came down to checkout.
After getting everything on our list, I headed toward the checkout stand. There was no line. Our clerk rang up my groceries in a flash. She was clearly a seasoned veteran. Our groceries were bagged and back in the cart in no time.
Since our test, I’ve used the “Scan, Bag, Go” option two more times and I’ve learned a few things.
First, it gets easier. You develop a system for sorting items in your cart and bagging items. My last trip to the grocery store felt much faster.
Also, if there are lines at the checkout stand, you will save a considerable amount of time using the handheld scanning device. This is where it really pays off. On a recent Sunday, the store I was shopping at was packed. The checkout lines were several people deep. Instead of having to wait for a clerk, I simply rolled toward a self-checkout kiosk to check out with my handheld device. There was no waiting in line.
Many stores are also expanding their online shopping options. Customers can create an online shopping list and either pick-up groceries curbside or have someone deliver them to your doorstep. We didn’t include that option in our test, but previously we’ve looked at how online prices compare with in-store prices.
Finally, these new technologies can help speed things up. You can avoid long lines. If you’ve only got few items, you can breeze through self-checkout. But there is one thing missing: the people. I like chatting with the clerks. I enjoy the familiar faces in the grocery store and you lose some of that when you’ve got a hand-held device and self-checkout.