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Registers allow customers to check own groceries

Megan Demeranville holds a sack of groceries as Holly Allen scans her own food items at Kroger Tuesday. The shopper follows a touch monitor that asks questions and directs customers to a clerk stationed nearby. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[08/15/01] Self-checking of groceries has begun in Vicksburg as yet another change for consumers.

“Right now what we have is more curiosity than anything,” said Chuck Head, manager of Kroger on Pemberton Boulevard where the scanners, monitors and other devices were fired up Thursday. “People, once they learn about them, I think they will use them,” he said.

There are four self-checkout scanners at Kroger, the first to offer them here as a way to beat waiting in line.

“The reasoning behind it is that it is faster service for the customers,” Head said. “It is hard to predict when you are going to get your major rushes. This kind of helps to take care of the customers’ needs.”

Nationally, self-checking has been around for a few years, and it is expected to spread to other retailers.

Tracy Dickerson of the Wal-Mart SuperCenter said the company is testing the devices and will install them in new stores first and then in older stores later.

The change at Kroger hasn’t meant fewer employees in other stores and Head said it probably won’t in Vicksburg.

“Some people think it has to do away with jobs, and that by no means is what it is,” he said.

Head said employees have been scheduled to work extra shifts for the next two weeks, assisting customers not comfortable with devices that read pricing codes, display the item name and cost, run a tally and have provisions to guard against theft.

For items sold by weight, such as fruit or vegetables, customers weigh their selections and get a bar code that can be used at the scanners to speed the checkout time.

Customers who pay with cash are able to complete their purchase with no employee involvement. Those who use checks, food stamps or debit or credit cards will have to stop at the register in front of the new scanner to pay or sign.

The new machines, open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., are mainly for express shoppers, 15 items or less, because the productivity is higher for the machines with fewer items.

Ellen Emmich of Vicksburg acted wary as she scanned her items Tuesday.

“It’s really easy to mess up until you get the hang of it, but kind of fun if you only have a few items,” Emmich said.

Head quickly went to her assistance, walking Emmich through the process step by step.

“It’s like feeding a Coke machine,” Head said, explaining to Emmich how to pay cash for her groceries.

“It’s great,” Emmich said.

Another customer, D.C. Parker, said he still liked the idea of a person to scan his items. When he returns to the store, he said, he’ll look for an aisle with a checker on duty.