Today I had one of the best grocery store experiences ever. Food Lion has opened 2 new stores, called Bloom, in my area. Today I visited their new Seneca store. If you like self checkout, hold on to your hat!
Bloom's "bonus card" allows you to check out a handheld UPC scanner at the front of the store. This scanner and a hanger of bags (available at the same location as the scanner) allow you to wander the store scanning your items and bagging them as you shop. When you complete your shopping, at any of the self checkout kiosks you scan an end trip barcode, your "bonus card", your order is automagically loaded into the register and you then pay. The techno-dweeb inside of me jumps for joy with the introduction of Bloom. Also, who doesn't like wandering the aisles pretending to be a gun slinger with your scanner?
<Clint Eastwood>Do you like shopping? eh? Do ya punk?</Clint>
In the produce section, the scale prints a sticker ready to be scanned with the weight and price of your selection. Discounts are tabulated directly on the scanner, where you can check prices, scan the list of items already in your cart, and see the total damage of your current trip. I must report that very few people, if any, over the age of 30 appeared to be using the scanners and "traditional" checkout is available. Given the looseness of scanning and checking out your own items, the ToS specifiy they will randomly spot check 1:10 carts and verify that some of the items in your cart are listed on your receipt. I found this out in response to wondering about the lack of omnipresent CCTV cameras.
While overall the experience was positive, there are some "corporate practices" that unnerve me a little. For instance the following was over heard on the PA system, "Attention All Associates, Cuddle Time in the Produce Section." This was followed by several associates converging on the aforementioned section for what appeared like a cross between a staff meeting and an evangelical tent revivial complete with staff members cheering as data was reported by the managers. Later in that same section, the "Chicken Dance" song was played. I cannot report whether spontaneous dancing then occured. At times the atomosphere seemed a bit too much touchy-feely for a grocery store. I can only surmise that a focus group of "target shoppers" told Bloom they wanted to be close personal friends with their local grocery store employees.