02 November 2012

Scan as you Shop comes to Tesco

Anything that helps to streamline supermarket shopping is fine by me.   I'm not a fan of supermarket delivery services (I prefer to pick out my own produce).  So, as I'm going to be cruising the aisles myself, in my ideal tech-assisted grocery shopping world, I'd have:
  • To create a shopping list
    a smartphone (Android in my case) shopping list app that
    • allows us to have a shared shopping list that either of us can add to when we spot something we need
    • can be told or will learn what we buy regularly and prompt us to add those items to the list if the normal amount of time has passed since we last added them
    • allows optional easy-to-add-or-remove ad-hoc notes for any item on the list (e.g. Urgent; have coupon; special offer ends on ..., etc.)
  • To do the shopping
    • Something other than a wretched £1 coin/token system to release chained up shopping trolleys.  At branches without chained-up trolleys, I can take just my Android phone and credit card.  Unlike a man, I don't conveniently carry coins in an easily accessible pocket.  In fact, my cash is carried in a rucksack-style handbag, and is deliberately as inaccessible / thief-proof as possible.  I don't use cash much for anything!
    • The shopping list should allow me to teach it the order I'll navigate the aisles to find different types of items in different branches or stores.  I'm mad enough to actually take the time to do the intial set-up once (and tweak as necessary when the supermarkets move things around) to streamline subsequent trips.  Even better would be a Location-aware shopping list - although asking supermarkets to come up with an Android app I'd be happy with is probably a tall order, based on any I've seen so far! 
    • A way to avoid having to put everything in my trolley, queue and take it all out again at the till, and then repack it all after the checkout operator has scanned it.
Back in the real world, we use the Our Groceries shared shopping list, and I make do with a categorised list that isn't in aisle order (most apps can categorise and allow you to set up categories sorted in one order by judicious naming of the categories, but I do most of my supermarket shopping in any one of 4 different branches of Tesco, each of which has a different layout, of course).

Scan as you Shop

As to the queuing at the till part of things, I've been a huge fan of the Waitrose scan as you go system for many years, and disappointed that other supermarkets haven't introduced similar systems, as I don't often shop at Waitrose.

So I was delighted to discover that the Wokingham branch of Tesco has just introduced their own version, and it seems they plan to gradually roll it out to other branches too.  (I believe some other supermarket chains have now started to introduce similar systems as well.)


Before you use the system for the first time, you need to register.  As this is Tesco, you do this using your Tesco Clubcard.

Once you've scanned your card, you need to agreed to the T&Cs (available separately), and enter your Post Code (presumably to confirm that you haven't just found / stolen a random Clubcard).

Accessing your scanner

The scanners are locked in individual holders in a big bank near the entrance.  Once you've registered, you then need to scan your card here to release one of them.  Once your card has been recognised, one of the scanners will be unlocked, and its holder flashes so you know which one to take.

The trolleys have a holder for the scanner built into their handles.


And you're off!  As you pick up each item from the shelves, scan it and pack it into your bags.  The scanner will keep a running total of your purchases (useful just to keep track of how much you're spending, and especially so when they have "5p off petrol if you spend £50" or other similar offers).  It also alerts you to multi-buy offers.

If you add something by mistake, or change your mind, there's a "-" button to remove it.


Once you've finished, you go to the pay points, near the rest of the tills.   I can't guarantee that there won't be queues, but at least they should be short, as there's none of that unloading and repacking to do.

If you had any problems with anything scanning as you shopped, staff there can help.  Otherwise, you just scan the special barcode at the paypoint to show that you've finished, and from then on, paying is just like paying at the old-style self-service tills - you can use cash, vouchers or credit card, and get our receipt as usual. 


Tesco staff may scan a random selection of the items in your trolley before you pay, to deter you from putting things in your trolley without scanning (and paying for) them.  They did do a spot check on me the first time I used the system, but I'd expect the frequency to reduce as people get used to the system.


I said at the start that I'm a fan of these type of systems.  The only downside is that I can't use multiple scanners to do two different lots of shopping (I quite often buy stuff for work with the company credit card, separately from my own personal shopping).  I can live with putting a small number of items through a regular or old-style self-service till once in a while though. 

So now I just need that shared, aisle/location-aware shopping list, and a tech-friendly way to unlock a trolley :).

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