(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Self-Checkout As You Shop

from the why-wait-until-the-end? dept

We've written about the increasing popularity of self-checkout solutions at various stores. Now, grocery chain Albertson's is trying to take that process one step further by giving shoppers handheld scanners that they can use to scan items as they put them in their cart. With the more traditional self-checkout scanners the anti-theft system involves placing the item on a tray that checks its weight against the expected weight - and a person monitoring a number of the self-checkout stands. With the handheld scanners, however, the anti-theft mechanism appears to be mostly (you won't believe it...) "trust". That's right. They're actually trusting most people to be honest. They are doing some random checks of people as they leave to make "verify" just how trustworthy they've been - but so far, the company reports no theft problems. Of course, this type of solution probably won't be needed once we get to the point of using RFID tags in groceries - but as someone who absolutely hates waiting in line at the grocery store, this sounds great to me - though, I wonder if you can "change your mind" on an item that you later decide you don't want.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2004 @ 2:13am

    Trust? Not in my neighborhood!

    The Albertson's is really run down in my neighborhood and if they implement this system in it, they'll probably get cleaned out really quickly.

    First the liquor will "vanish", then the meat department, then anything else...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    mattan, Mar 30th, 2004 @ 2:54am

    No Subject Given

    A system using handheld scanners was implemented for a few months at our local supermarket, in the late 1990s. After a user had scanned their products, they went to a checkout and handed the scanner to the attendant, who checked that several random trolley samples were present in the scanner's memory.

    I really liked this idea, and it certainly sped up the queues. But it was soon dumped in favour of traditional check out processes. I guess they just lost too much stock due to dishonesty.

    Apparently this happened with all the supermarkets country-wide, that were taking part in the new system.

    It puzzles me as to why they think that trusting the customer will work now. I guess someone still has faith!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2004 @ 10:19am

    No Subject Given

    Our local Albertsons has this.

    Yes, you can change your mind. Press a "-" button and rescan the item. It is deducted from the list.

    Trust: You must use your Albertsons preferred card to obtain the scanner before shopping. Now, any logical reader of this forum will point out 50 or 100 ways this is meaningless... but the psycological value of putting people in the mindset of "I gave an ID card; if I get caught with innaccurate data (i.e. stealing)..." that mindset is invaluable.

    Still it will be interesting to see what the loss rate is... higher or lower than stores without the scanner?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    AMetamorphosis, Mar 30th, 2004 @ 12:07pm


    Perhaps leaving your Driver's license @ the customer service counter in exchange for a hand scanner would be the best deterrent for theft. If your identifying yourself ahead of making any transactions, chances are people would be less willing to take the chance of being dishonest.

    Personally, I will never go this route ( or use those damn self scan machines ) because why should I scan my own groceries, bag them and do all the other labor when I pay the EXACT same price as allowing a cashier and a bag boy to do it ?

    Offer me 5% off my grocery bill to do the cashier's job & I might consider it ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Con Tendem, Mar 30th, 2004 @ 5:54pm

    No Subject Given

    The question is not how much the stores lose due to theft, but whether what they lose will be offset by the savings in cashier/extra equipment costs. My gut feeling is that in good neighborhoods there is not going to be that much theft.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Cowardly Anonymous, Mar 31st, 2004 @ 7:17am

    Re: Honesty

    I'd pay an EXTRA 5% on my grocery bill not to have to wait for the pimply-faced, incompetent, impolite lackey behind the register to ring up my groceries.

    Before the Albertson's near me implemented self-checkout, my wife and I would only shop there for short-notice, must-have items when we didn't have time to go to another store. Now that they've got self-checkout, that's the only place we shop. Why? Because we don't have to deal with morons.

    We haven't shopped at our previously preferred grocery store since Albertson's put their self-checkout registers in place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2004 @ 11:58am

    Re: Honesty

    Hopefully next time I can get you to bag and ring up my groceries ...

    The vast majority of the supermarket employees I deal with are polite and efficient.

    How many times will the automated scan systems fuck up and you have to wait for a human to come fix the error anyhow ?
    Machines can't reason.
    Machines don't do well with the coupons.
    And why the hell do I have to put my ONE item down on the counter after scanning it so the machine can weigh it and tell I'm not a criminal ?

    You must enjoy the pimply faced kid watching you do his job.

    Besides, do you have all the produce codes memorized or do you enjoy paging through the book to find out the code for apples ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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