business news in context, analysis with attitude

We received an email about our story detailing Superquinn’s new self-scanning system from MNB user Tom Kroupa, and we’ll try to answer his questions best as possible:

“The story on the Superquinn's Superscan was very exciting, and, I have a few questions.

Does the scanner give a running total as you are shopping or do you wait
until check out?

It does a running total, allowing people to even de-scan items if they’ve spent too much money.

Can someone put an item into the basket without scanning and leave the store with the item unpaid?

They can…but there are random checks, and execs say that there hasn‘t been a tremendous shrink problem since instituting the system.

“Would American supermarket executives want customers to see a running total given that so much impulse buying adds to the bottom line?

Maybe not. But that seems foolish, like putting a short-term sale ahead of the long-term goal of keeping the customer satisfied and coming back for more.

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

“Only 14 percent of the shoppers take advantage of the system and that's good?!”

Our understand is that it is enough to make it more than break-even. Beyond that, it brings a new dimension to the shopping experience.

Another MNB user wrote:

“You don't mention shrink - how does Superquinn address this risk?”

By random checks, done without embarrassing the shopper. And, the fewer mistakes you make, the less often you get checked.

Another MNB user doesn’t share our enthusiasm for the self-scanning system:

“Waitrose in the UK (southern part of England only, not nationwide) uses the same system as Superquinn. I have tried it and given up as it takes far too long and really does not simplify my life. First, in order to scan successfully you have to get the angles exactly right. Not as easy as it sounds. You (or I, that is) can take minutes rather than seconds over each item. Second, the produce department is trickiest of all. You have to juggle with the plastic bags in which you pack loose fruit and veg then go to a scale and pick out a picture of the item you want to scan, weigh it, scan it, remove the sticky label with the price and put it on the bag then put the little bag into the big bag in the trolley all the while juggling the remaining bags that you haven't weighed yet while a crowd of other customers gathers impatiently behind you. Or repeat the whole exercise one type of produce at a time while waiting impatiently for the people in front of you to do their scanning. Tedious or what? And finally, those re usable bags to which you refer do not sit neatly in the shopping cart and can be a nuisance to pack and then stack on top of one another when you've filled one up.

“Looking around while I shopped revealed far fewer people using this system than the more traditional method of tossing their selections into the shopping cart and letting the person at checkout (who is paid to do it) sort out the scanning. And even fewer using it recently than the last time I looked several months ago. Call me old-fashioned (and many do) but I have given up on self-scanning although I agree with you about Dublin.”

Different strokes. All we can report is that at Superquinn, we didn’t talk to a shopper using the system who was less than extremely enthusiastic about it – and the usage seemed to cut across demographic groups. And, also at Superquinn, the bags fit just fine.

On another subject, MNB user Ron Cook wrote:

“ We should all be so fortunate as to enjoy a working holiday in Ireland. I hope you have a wonderful trip. I enjoyed your opposing view to the comments (about sanitizing movies). After reading your comments I could be swayed to give up the notion that PG versions of R rated movies may receive wide spread success. Live and learn.”

Holiday? This is a working holiday?

Nobody told us.

Regarding the use of Greenbags to replace plastic sacks in Ireland, and maybe in Australia, we got several emails:

“Why not go back to the old reliable paper grocery bag? They've been in use much longer and with as much, in not more, satisfaction than the thin and flimsy plastic bags.


“Good plan, Kevin, on bringing back some of the Greenbags from Ireland. I have several cloth bags that my grandmother sewed and one from the Nature Conservancy that I use quite often. Many of the stores here in Oregon offer a 5-cent "refund" if you reuse one of their bags and they also apply it to your bill if you just bring your own bags. Not that much money - I save about 25 cents a grocery trip - but it makes me feel good to not keep using plastic bags. Our landfills get enough trash everyday.

“I really do hope that stores here in the US start adopting a similar program to Ireland. Just think of the impact that could make! Big companies like Kroger and Albertsons could really change people's views by instigating something like this -- and appear like "leaders" in being environmentally responsible.”

And on that note, it’s time to sign off…until tomorrow, when we continue our series of columns, “MNB On The Road.”
KC's View: