At this point, we're all familiar with the self-checkout options that are available at most grocery stores and large retail establishments. The concept behind them is sound, and most of us have given them a try at one time or another. If you have only a couple items, and you see lines at the regular check-out lines, then it's somewhat more convenient to drop into the self-checkout kiosk and complete your transaction.
Of course, if you've used self-checkout more than a few times, chances are pretty good that you've run into a problem with the automated procedures. Whether it's a product that scans improperly―or not at all―or some other glitch during the payment or check-out procedure, it's safe to say that self check-out is far from perfect.
Given the availability of technology and the fact that many people are willing to pay for it, why not offer some another option: smart carts or shopping guns that track items as you cart them.
Imagine you walk into the grocery store and grab your shopping cart as you normally would. Only this time, the cart comes equipped with a tethered scanning gun that looks and feels much like the pricing guns that grocers used not long ago to affix prices to items. Your cart-mounted scanning gun will read the bar codes of all the items that you load into your cart and keep track of everything while you shop.
The cart itself (or possibly just the gun) will have a small screen that keeps track of the total you're spending as you shop. A simple 'return' button on the gun allows you to put anything back on the shelf that you had scanned previously.
After you have everything that you need scanned and loaded into your cart, simply walk to the checkout kiosk, plug your scanning gun into its reader and pay your bill. You get your printed receipt and off you go.
Maybe I'm not thinking through all the logistics, but it seems like this method would be far superior to the clunky self-checkout lines that are currently available to us. Let us select the item and add it to our total at the same time. There should be no need to go through the entire store to grab all of our necessary items, and then go to a central point to individually scan everything so that we can pay for it. That's just silly and incredibly inefficient.
With barcoding technology what it is today, it would be very easy to implement this type of system. Each item would be easily accounted for and the same type of inventory control procedures that are currently in place would still apply for safety and to ward off thieves.
As one who is in the grocery store a few times per week, I know that my suggestion is a better way of doing things. What I can't figure out is what incentive exists to not pursue this path. A faster and more efficient shopping experience, I believe, would only be good for business. But then again, I'm not in the business, so maybe I'm missing something big.