Hand scanners ease shopping at local supermarkets

Shopping with two young girls in tow, Laura Brandes has taken to carrying a scanning gun as she travels the aisles of the recently opened Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays.

"It's so much easier than loading the cart, unloading it, having them scan it and loading it again," Brandes, 41, of Hampton Bays, said recently.

The Hampton Bays location is the latest Long Island store in the chain to offer the new Scan It Motorola scanner. When the store opened in April, trainers were on hand to help customers get used to the device, which lets shoppers scan their own items as they shop and notifies them of store specials.

"One inducement is that the customer gets extra savings that are exclusive to the scanner customer," said Robert Hempson, Stop & Shop district manager for stores in Nassau and Suffolk counties. "The Scan It is going to give some special offers to them that are not available to the general public, and those offers are tailored to that person's shopping database."

Kiosks holding the handheld computers are located near entrances where customers can scan their loyalty or rewards card. Based on the customer's past purchases, the scanner can display promotions. It keeps a running tally of everything scanned and alerts the shopper to specials with a "cha-ching" as shoppers near the aisle of a product on sale.

Customers place the scanned items in their cart or, as many interviewed seemed to prefer, they can organize their groceries in their own bags in the carts as they shop. They then take the items to a cashier or a self-checkout counter, download the data in the register and pay.

Scan It debuted on Long Island earlier this year and now is in 18 Long Island Stop & Shop stores. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., which operates several chains including A&P, Waldbaum's, The Food Emporium and Pathmark, is not using any devices similar to Scan It The Bethpage-based King Kullen chain "is reviewing the technology and studying it for the future," said Thomas Cullen, King Kullen vice president.

This sort of scanner can help build customer loyalty, but another appeal is that it serves as a cost-savings device for the stores, said Craig Mathias, a principal at an advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobile technology.

For some shoppers, the time-savings are a major plus.

"You feel like you're skipping an extra step," said Deborah Bouchard, 34, of East Quogue. "You don't have to wait in line or wait until someone scans it and bags it."

Elaine Ortolan, 36, of Shirley said the main reason she uses the Scan It device is speed.

"The best thing is speed," she said. "[And] I bring my own bags. I like to recycle."

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