Black Friday Shopping: Santa’s Helper Comes Early

25 Nov

I was food shopping at Stop & Shop when I witnessed a platoon of ordinary civilians brandish laser guns and storm the bakery department.

I watched helplessly from behind a bread bin as they scanned their bagels and raced past, leaving me in a flurry of breadcrumbs.  They were probably already at home shmearing their bagels with cream cheese by the time I packed up my hardening baguette and checked out.

If only I too had held a “Scan-It,” a digital gadget that Stop & Shop introduced that’s expanding throughout stores.  To reduce check out time it allows you to scan and bag your own groceries in the aisle while you shop.  I wondered if I was ready to jump aboard the Scan-It wagon, and stretch self-serve beyond airline tickets, money withdrawal and salad bars.

Was I prepared to do the job of cashier without being paid?  The way I figure it, I’m a full-time mom and used to working for nothing anyway, so what did I have to lose?

I had once tried Stop & Shop’s Peapod grocery delivery service.  While I found that a strapping young man hauling ten bags of groceries into my kitchen wasn’t a bad way to start the morning, I soon realized that by adding groceries to my list of dry-cleaning, newspaper, and pizza deliveries, I hadn’t left my house in weeks.  I needed a reason to re-enter society and to shave my legs.

So one recent morning I entered the store’s kiosk, approached the Great Wall of Scanners, and swiped my loyalty card.  This disengaged a Scan It device, which is about the size of a large hairbrush and looks like a cross between a calculator and E.T.’s face.

I grabbed the gadget, and feeling strangely empowered, picked up my first grocery item.   Trying to find the barcode was like playing “Where’s Waldo” on a can of corn.  Zap.  No validation beep.  Zap.  Nothing.  Item closer.  Item further.  Standing on one leg.   Beep!   Finally, success!  But wait… did I just scan the can, or the metal plate in my wrist?

The learning curve for produce was harder because you have to use a computer touch screen to identify the produce and weigh it to get the bar code.  Buying pumpkins was okay, but I found negotiating all the varieties of apples so frustrating that after ten minutes I was ready to abandon my fresh pie and head straight to the canned fruit aisle. And forget about the French string beans.  I had an easier time getting through airport security during my last trip to Israel.

The Scan-It alerts you to sale items with a soft beep.  Sounds helpful, but a popular sale item can produce a chorus of beeps so persistent you fear the announcement on discounted Cheez-It’s may have just flat lined your neighbor Doris on aisle 7.

As you’d expect, checking out was quick since I had already bagged my own groceries.   But self-scanners beware.  You may want to build in extra time for check out in case you’re audited (I don’t mean by the IRS).

To prevent a potential new brand of stealing where dishonest customers might be tempted to slip a 20lb rib roast into their grocery cart instead of their overcoat, Stop & Shop uses random selection.  At any moment you might be one of the unlucky shoppers picked out of the checkout aisle to empty your bags of five hundred eighty-seven items for a booty check.

While it’s understandable that security is needed, let’s hope it doesn’t graduate from bag searches to airport full body scanners or strip searches (and I’m not talking strip steak).

All in all, I’d consider Scan-It to be Santa’s helper on Black Friday or any day.   But be sure to shop selectively or the Italian onions could cause you to weep before you even leave the store.


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23 Responses to “Black Friday Shopping: Santa’s Helper Comes Early”

  1. Paprika Furstenburg November 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    I love playing with the self-scanners and self check-out aisles, but the novelty quickly wears off when I realize I’m doing all the work and it is not making my time in the store any quicker. I’m a Wegman’s shopper, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled to see if they start something like this. Now, if only they could develop something that would put the groceries away once I get home…

    • morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer November 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

      Wegman’s has scales on which you put your produce, key in the numbers assigned, and wait for a sticky receipt to pop out of the machine with your cost.


  2. Main Street Musings Blog November 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Amen to that!

  3. Audubon Ron November 25, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    “…you fear the announcement on discounted Cheez-It’s may have just flat lined your neighbor Doris on aisle 7.”

    I’m still laughing on that one. Your scanner might even knock off a pacemaker and you might watch your neighbor Charlie hit the deck in a seizure. Either way, beware not to pick up the Blas-Tech DL-44 scanner used by Darth Vader wearing the stripped Coca-Cola shirt.

    “HARRIET!!! Zap the matzahs!” ~~zzzap.~~ KA-BOOOM!!!!

    I use the self-check all I can, but watch out when they charge you $5.99 for one endive instead of $5.99 an lb. That recently happened to me and even the store manager couldn’t figure out how to fix the scanner so he deleted the two endives completely from the bill and just handed then to me and said, “Here, it’s on the house.”

  4. Main Street Musings Blog November 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    “Harriet! Zap the matzahs!” That’s my new favorite line for Passover.

  5. Bridget November 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    I have boycotted the whole self scanning thing at my local Stop and Shop – I actually get annoyed that they charge full price for groceries that you scan and bag yourself! With the price of food the way it is – I’m thinking they should pay me to shop there!

  6. Main Street Musings Blog November 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Or they should at least leave us a tip!

  7. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer November 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    You had me with the strapping young man delivering your groceries to the house.


  8. Diane Henders November 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    One of our local grocery stores tried this about 15 years ago. It turned out to be one of those things that only *seems* like a good idea. They gave it a go for a year or two, and then one day the bank of scanners vanished, much to the relief of all concerned.

    This, too, shall pass. 🙂

    • Main Street Musings Blog November 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      I’m impressed that it’s lasted at our local grocery store for a year now. That’s about ten months longer that a Kardashian marriage! 😉

  9. nectarfizz November 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    You are a riot. I am now properly nervous and excited by the idea of using something like this one day. I personally think it would be better and easier done if they included Scan cards for the items on each aisle then the consumer doesn’t have to do all the work. Just scan the bar code card and Voila! I love that you remained unbiased. Lovely article.

    • Main Street Musings Blog November 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

      I just bring my kids shopping with me and let them do all the work. 😉
      Thanks for commenting!

  10. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley November 28, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    Wait, you shave your legs before you go to the grocery store?

  11. Main Street Musings Blog November 28, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Only if you want the clerk to scan your groceries for you 😉

  12. sportsattitudes November 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    These radar guns haven’t hit my radar yet. We have had self-serve checkout areas in place for several years now at most all of the chain grocery stores but there is an attendant that oversees the four to six “registers” and attempts to keep everyone moving along…and honest. You have the option to self-checkout or use a live cashier (and I use live only in the theoretical sense). Anyway, if these gadgets start to show up it will be interesting to see how many people arm themselves. (“clean up on Aisle 7…sorry Doris…my bad”)

    • Main Street Musings Blog November 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Yes, it will be interesting to see. And based on the way our society has been behaving lately, radar guns seem a much safer option than stun guns.

  13. funnyortragic December 2, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    We don’t have this store or scanners like this on our coast…but all I can say is thank god. I swear half the people in the self check-out aisle take three times as long to scan toilet paper, let alone fresh fruit. What WOULD come in handy are very mild voltage tasers. For the people hogging the entire aisle with their cart on one side while they stand like lawn ornaments on the other, never budging when you say excuse me…

  14. Main Street Musings Blog December 2, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    I hear those are available at Wallmart, along with pepper spray.

  15. thelaughingmom December 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I’ve never heard of such a thing. Sounds like registering for wedding gifts. A bag of grocieries would have been a way more useful item to add to the registry than all the different drink glasses that collect dust in my cabinet. I can see where the scanner would be very useful to conceal feminine hygiene products and Little Debbies.

  16. Sylver Blaque December 8, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Lisa said: “I just bring my kids shopping with me and let them do all the work.”

    A-ha! Wait ’til I talk to my Mom! She told me she dragged me along so that we could “bond!”

  17. Main Street Musings Blog December 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    uh huh, if bonding means you do all the scanning and bagging while she sips coffee at the Starbucks cafe. . .

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