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AUTOMATIC GROCERY

U-Scan Express makes shopping more easy.

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The other day I found myself at the grocery store counting the items in my cart. As I went down the aisles, I carefully picked up the foods I needed most: cheddar cheese, wheat tortillas, firm tofu, diet soda; the basics. But I made sure that when I got up to the checkout, I only had 15. Even last year I would have been counting so I could go to the express checkout where some poor high-schooler would be ringing up groceries as fast as possible. But this time there was no high-schooler. There was only the U-Scan Express. U-Scan Express, a product from Optimal Robotics that first hit Memphis in 1998, at a Bartlett Kroger, lets consumers be their own cashiers. While it doesn’t quite have all the bugs worked out yet -- there always seems to be annoyed and perplexed customers frowning in front of the machines -- four customers can check out with only one (ONE!) employee overseeing the entire thing. Talk about a time-saver. This is the sort of technology I love to see. At any other type of store, I’ll browse until my heart’s content, poring over lingerie, magazines, shoes, school supplies, even packing tape. But put me in a grocery store with the carts and the children and I can’t wait to get in and get out. So I don’t mind bagging my own groceries for the sake of efficiency. In fact, I like it. I don’t have to make polite conversation with a cashier or even endure not so polite conversation (Sometimes, and I understand there’s a whole on-your-feet-all-day element there, the cashiers are not nice). I don’t have to worry about whether the baggers are putting the eggs in with the canned goods, or quadruple bagging the 2-Liters or if they’re giving each individual item its own whole bag (Imagine carrying out 22 plastic bags, each holding only a pound of spaghetti or a can of soup). U-Scan is like the ultimate vending machine: pick out your items, scan them in, and insert your crispy dollar bills. Even better, you don’t even have to have crispy dollar bills. The machines take debit and credit cards, too. Now all I really need to make my grocery shopping experience perfect is for the stores to upgrade to the U-Scan Carousel for larger purchases. Then I can finally buy that 16th item.

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