It only took me about 25 seconds to get through the checkout at Kroger on Wednesday.
But you should have seen my cart.
Even Kroger’s most efficient employee couldn’t have sent the 17 items in my cart through the scanner that quickly.
The company’s newest technology — Scan, Bag, Go — cuts the couple minutes typically spent at the checkout down to seconds by allowing shoppers to scan their items as they shop through the store.
Meaning, the customer doing a week’s worth of shopping for a family of eight doesn’t clog the self-checkout line any more than the one who just popped into the store for a last minute, forgotten ingredient.
The hundred or so items in that family's cart are no more threatening to shoppers scouting out a painless checkout line than the 17 I picked up on Wednesday.
Louisville is Kroger’s third market to take on the system, said Anaris Sickles, the Scan, Bag, Go launch manager for the company. The grocery giant tested the technology in its Fry’s stores in Arizona mid-last year and then moved into the Cincinnati market. The Kroger at 3165 South 2nd Street. got the system this past weekend, and the company intends to roll it out in 13 Louisville-area stores over the next year or so.
Kroger designed the concept in-house in response to overall customer demands for a more seamless, personal shopping experience, Sickles told me.
And while this specific technology is unique to Kroger, other retailers are going through similar evolutions.
Walmart has been experimenting with its own scan and go model for a few years, but it was only in January that the big box giant announced plans to implement it in 100 stores.
E-commerce dynamo Amazon.com has launched a checkout-free concept in Seattle where customers can just pickup items from the shelves in the physical store and have them charged to their Amazon.com account.
This is on top of the online ordering and in-store pickup services that Walmart, Best Buy Target and so many other traditionally brick-and-mortar players have implemented as customer demands for immediacy have raged while competition from e-commerce retailers have increased.
The e-commerce boom has changed the way that consumers think about shopping, and traditional companies are picking up on that.
So Wednesday morning I decided to give Kroger’s latest change a try.
I paired up with Courier Journal video producer Astrid Hacker, and we spent some time getting to know the new system while picking up some groceries to donate to the Franciscan Kitchen at 748 S. Preston St.
We started at the Scan, Bag, Go kiosk at the front of the store where an attendant was onsite to explain the system. They’re pushing it with a $5 off a $35 purchase promotion for the first three times a customer uses it. The idea is once shoppers learn the system, they’ll like it and keep using it, Sickles told me.
The kiosk has scanners available for shoppers, but the system also works through the Kroger app on smartphones. All the shopping trips start by scanning your Kroger membership card, and then it’s about as easy as picking up products from the shelves, scanning their barcodes and placing them in the bags you pick-up at kiosk when you start.
The scanning takes a little more effort on the produce side where customers are asked to put the products on a scale and record the weight. But for a cart load of food pantry staples like Astrid and I were looking for, it only took a few extra seconds per item.
There was a moment or two, too, where I thought I’d have to hit the big yellow “help” button on the scanner. That would have sent a digital flare of sorts out to Kroger associates that would guide them to whatever spot in the store my technology illiterate moment was happening.
Sickles told me that store is actually hiring an extra 20 employees or so to man the kiosk and help customers on the store floor through the process.
Which is good because I had a couple hiccups as I was testing it out. I almost deleted my whole order once, and I got caught twice with error messages.
I absolutely see why they’re giving customers three promotion-driven chances to learn it.
But by the time I got to the checkout my bag was already loaded. All I had to do was fire my scanner at the bar code on the self-checkout and swipe my credit card.
It takes more effort in the aisles on the part of the shopper, but if everyone did it, the system in theory cuts that dreaded, high-traffic, checkout-line bottleneck at the end of a shopping trip down to almost nothing.
Even with those hiccups I mentioned, that alone could get me to try it again.
By the time I'd finished loading up the shopping cart, I was ready to go.
And with this system, 25 seconds later, I could.