If you shop at our neighborhood QFC, then you’ve probably seen the rack of scanners. On a recent visit, I found them just inside the door on the front of the building (where you might normally exit). Perhaps you’ve looked right past them never noticing that they were there. I’ve seen very few people actually using them; I had only used them once.
So what’s the deal with these hand scanners? I headed to QFC to, ummm, check them out.
The scanners are part of a program that QFC calls “Scan, Bag, Go.” It was first rolled out at the start of 2018, but I’m not sure if they are now available at all QFCs or all Kroger stores. If you’ve used the self checkout, then conceptually, you’re simply scanning as you go rather than scanning everything at the kiosk before you leave.
There is also a Scan, Bag, Go app for iPhone and Android which, I presume, transforms your phone into, effectively, the scanner if you want to use your phone instead. I downloaded the app at home, but then found out that it won’t function unless a QFC is nearby. So in the interests of getting this story out without my visiting QFC yet again, I’ll skip any review of this app. I’ll note, though, that a QFC shoppers card is required to use the app, so this isn’t an option for those without one.
There’s a difficult calculus here for me. I don’t want to drop my phone while scanning things, so I might therefore be inclined to use the hand scanner. But I keep my shopping list on my phone, and trying to juggle my phone, the scanner, grocery items and possibly a shopping basket might make me even more likely to drop my phone. Decisions, decisions.
So it all sounds pretty straightforward, but there are some things that crop up that wouldn’t necessarily happen at the self checkout. So I grabbed my shopping list and a basket, and asked Linda G., one of the Front End Managers, to guide me through the process.
I found out right away that juggling phone, scanner, basket and grocery items is, indeed, pretty cumbersome. If only I still had that third hand! I kept putting the scanner in my basket to pick items off the shelves, but as my basket filled up, that became more difficult.
The basic routine, once you get all your devices and hands under control, is to scan items as you go. As you scan, the item is added to your “cart.” (At one point, I think the scanner asked me if I wanted to add an item to my cart. I’m not sure why that happened; if I scan it, I want it — for the most part. But that only happened once.) The scanner will tell you how much each item costs when you scan it. If you decide you suddenly don’t want it, you can hit the Remove button. In this way, the scanner can, in fact, act as a price checker. You can scan an item whose price you want to know, then hit Remove.
As you shop, the scanner displays your bill’s running total which can be handy. You can also scroll through the items that you’ve already scanned, review their prices, and remove any items that you don’t want.
It seemed obvious to me that the thing to do was to pick up an item, and scan the barcode on it. But this is exactly the wrong thing to do with produce. Linda schooled me in lesson number one: especially when it comes to produce scan the barcode that appears on the shelves rather than on the items. The tiny stickers bearing the barcode on these types of items are just too small, and often too wrinkled, to scan well. And on the topic of scanning, I found it a little difficult to know how close or far to position the scanner. It produces a red beam with a dot in the center, and I’m not sure if you’re supposed to move it all around the barcode, or what. In any case, large barcodes (like the one on the shelves) scanned just fine.
A couple of other issues crop up, so to speak, in the produce aisle. Many of those items have to be weighed. You can bring those unweighed items to the self checkout and weigh them there. But that would be the hard way. As Linda told me, there are actually Scan, Bag, Go scales scattered about, and you can place your items on one of those and then scan the barcode on the scale. That way, when you show up at the self checkout, you aren’t faced with the puzzle of how to tell the machine that you need to weigh just a few things.
The other thing that happens in produce, of course, is that pricing can be per item — say, $0.99 per cucumber. The scanner knows which items are priced this way, and will ask you how many you have.
Once you’re done shopping, report to the self checkout, and scan the barcode on the machine. (Yeah, there really is one. It’s in the center below the screen and labeled Scan, Bag, Go.) If you’ve already weighed everything that requires weighing, then you’ll be taken straight to the screen that asks you about bags and then payment. I would say that after a visit or two, the whole process might actually be a time saver.
Oh, a word about alcohol … If you’re under 21, no, this is not a clever way to obtain beer without actually stealing it. The machine knows you’ve got the booze, and it will stop you in the checkout process until age can be verified.