Tuesday, January 6, 2009

giant scanners defeat boring grocery store experience

"We've got fresh ideas, and great value, too . . ."

It's old news, but I still can't get over Giant's new purple-and-yellow logo, which the company calls "intentionally vague" but "generally associated" with being positive, according to the Post. (Is "generally positive" the best we can hope for after years of declining product quality and customer service?)

We haven't started calling it Stop & Shop yet, but to me, the loss of the Big G is every bit as earth-shattering as the loss of Hecht's or Woodies or even Hechinger's (and now Chevy Chase Bank), despite the fact that I do not remember having ever set foot in a Hechinger's - and Hecht's and Woodies were, for a six-year-old me, solely places to hide in clothing racks while my mother shopped.

I did, though, notice that my local Giant in Colesville has these neat scanner-things that let you ring up the groceries while they're still in your cart. For a six-year-old me suddenly in the body of a twenty-one-year-old, this is like manna from heaven. It's not just a scanner - it's a ray gun, and your only weapon for defeating the evil vegetable hordes from devouring your grocery cart! (Did I play this game at the grocery store? Absolutely.)

Still hate your new logo, Giant, but totally enjoy the re-introduction of play to the shopping experience.


Thomas Hardman said...

Yikes, Giant. Could be worse, could be the Rock Creek Village Safeway, which on some days is the nicest place you could possibly shop, and on other days, appears to have been overrun by Replicants in a snit.

The Seizure World Giant doesn't have the spiffy handheld scanners, but it does have self-service scan tables, about 5 of them, of which one always seems to be out of service. My only complaint is that the staff keeps removing the spare carts that are supposed to be kept there, so rather than unloading and one end from one carts, and self-bagging into another cart at the other end, it's necessary to unload the one cart, stack products all over the shelving at the intake-hopper end, and move the cart to the other end, and then scan, bag, and stuff into the cart.

That being said, I like to show off. I have never worked for a grocery store, and given how some of the staff there act towards me (remember, I am Poor White Trash as anyone can tell from my writing) it seems that I will never work for a grocery store, at least not that one.

However, if you are having fun playing Zap the Vegetable Horde with your scanner gun, I am having fun demonstrating to the staff that I can unload a cart, scan the products, bag the products, and load the cart, and can do it faster than the scanner can beep. Thus, if Giant were to hire me I could and would cheerfully do the job of two of the staffers that call me PWT, for 1.5 times one of those staffers is paid.

I'm not featherbedding, and I am not union, and I yam a Scannin' Fool, yo.

Both we the Scannin' Fools and the Vegetable Horde Laser Zappers are about to be put out of a job as RFID make more inroads and becomes a more mature technology, with more universal application to all containerized produce.

Sligo said...

Interestingly, the WiFi in that Giant is named "Stop & Shop". The things you learn having an iPhone.

Anonymous said...

Having shopped at (banked with) all of the bygone entities you mentioned this post took me down a momentary memory lane walk. Thank you... and yes the new logo sucks more than a Tijuana hooker.

Thomas Hardman said...

They have WiFi inside Giant?

Wow. This is new.

A few years ago, I was doing "Wardriving" around the neighborhood, until WiFi got so ubiquitous that wardriving became almost pointless. Interested parties can see my old maps -- circa 2001-2002 or so -- via the small links, top of page, here.

Interestingly, in this map, the Aspen Hill Shopping Center had no WiFi at all, not even in the McDonalds, the Giant, nor even the Radio Shack.

In the Plaza del Mercado Shopping Center, a fairly complete wardrive found quite a bit of overlapping WiFi, but none coming from Giant.

I suppose I could go make another pass or three around the neighborhood.

Oh, what was really interesting, the last time I rolled on through collecting ESSIDs and AP names and MAC addresses and geocoding them, was the really intense saturation at the Aspen Hill Home Depot parking lot. I logged at least 20 APs, most of which were receivable on neighboring streets.

The general wardrive of "north Aspen Hill" produced some rather fascinating coverage maps of directional antennas from APs. Even more interesting coverage is observed in the general wardrive along the Bel Pre Road corridor. I'm still trying to figure out who, in 2002, had a secure (WAP) line-of-sight link from their apartment, near Bel Pre and Georgia, to the Aspen Hill Apartments at Hewitt Avenue and Georgia. Even weirder is the fact that directional secure AP seems to have been aimed at the Aspen Hill Shopping Center from the mausoleum in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery... Oh well, this part of town has always been a hotbed of espionage.

perrik said...

The Bloom supermarket in West Laurel has had the handheld scanners since they opened. I prefer the overall customer experience at Bloom, but would rather do self-checkout at Giant. Bloom (like Shoppers Food Warehouse and IKEA) uses those weight-based tables that freak out if the bag weight doesn't match the product weight. Just try buying a tiny stuffed animal at IKEA, what a pain. I've never figured out how to use my own bags at one of those things, either. Besides, Giant's self-checkout has that laser arch, how cool is that? I feel like an evil queen sending the villagers (represented by containers of Yoplait) one by one to a laser-y death.

What I really crave at Giant are the short shopping carts. I first encountered those at the Social Safeway and Glover Park Whole Foods (former workplace was halfway between them), and the Laurel Bloom has them as well. They're perfect for zipping around a crowded store.

The Safeway at Laurel Lakes has WiFi according to a sign at the entrance. Haven't checked the Burtonsville or Calverton Giants for a signal.

My husband and I were debating what the new Giant logo was supposed to represent. A bowl of fruit? A Partridge Family tribute? The Sydney Opera House?

Dan Reed said...

There's no way the Calverton Giant has Wi-Fi; they barely have a bakery section. But why should a grocery store have Wi-Fi, anyway? I want to be in and out as quickly as possible, and if I have time to check Teh E-mails, something's wrong.

I bet, though, that when the Burtonsville Giant eventually moves across the street it re-opens as a Stop and Shop.

retgroclk said...

Check the back of the Giant Brand products in the pharmacy sectiob(I believe they are called Care First) this is a Stop and Shop product.

The paychecks of the employees are Stop and Shop paychecks.

I do not think Royal Ahold will convert Giants to Stop and Shop in name only by products.

The name Giant still holds a powerful influence.

As for your treatment by the staff of Giant Mr. Hardman-- be happy at least you get some attention-- most times customers are ignored.

Remember, many of the employees of grocery stores are not career employees(unlike 30 years ago when you could support a family on grocery wages).

They are more interested in getting the job done, collecing their pay and going home- they do not have much time for customer service- it is still there you just have to be lucky to find it.

Sligo said...

They would never spend all that money to re-brand Giant only to turn around and convert the stores to Stop & Shop.

Dan Reed said...

I don't know. The logo is the same as Stop and Shop's. It reminds me of how, when Macy's gobbled up so many local department stores, they sort of half-assedly adopted the old store's name (for instance, Burdines-Macy's in Florida) before changing it altogether. They didn't do that with Hecht's, which might speak to how well local brands are entrenched in D.C.-area culture.

Thomas Hardman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
perrik said...

I agree with Dan. The Giant name is doomed. First we get the shared designs (identical logo, website, POS/self-checkout systems, labeling, most store brands). Once we're used to it - my guess is within the next two years - all the Giant stores will be renamed.

I was a bit freaked out when I first saw the new logo on a package of Wing Zings; if S&S messes with my Wing Zings there will be blood.

Er, anyway, I can understand why the new overlords would invest in re-branding. It makes sense from a marketing viewpoint, not to mention the cost savings of not printing separate Giant-branded bags/labels/etc.

The absorption of a local/regional brand is jarring at first, but after a while memories dim. Once upon a time, Peoples Drug bought up regional chains and re-branded them, and then was bought up by CVS who did their own re-branding. There's always a bigger fish.

I'd miss the Giant name, but life goes on. As long as the stores remain open so I don't have to deal with the hell that is the Calverton SuperFresh, the name doesn't matter. Oh how I loathe shopping at that SuperFresh.

Sligo said...

I see now that it does have the same logo. I guess I hadn't seen a Stop & Shop in years, and still thought they used the stoplight logo.

The funny thing is that my cousin works for Stop & Shop and his job is to travel around converting other brands to S&Ss. You'd think I could find out about these things...

Robin said...

I've yet to see anyone using the scanners at the most local Giant near me to have them (not all do, yet). They all just sit there, a couple small walls worth, for no apparent reason. We shall see. Maybe they require younger generations to start doing the grocery shopping:) I doubt I'll ever call them Stop & Shop's (even if, yes, I know they are, TECHNICALLY speaking). And, admittedly, I DO call the stores CVS now, whatever that stands for, and not People's. I worked at Woodie's for years as my part-time 2nd job, even if I like Macy's more than Hecht's, Hecht's was, well, one of our stores. Like Garfinkel's I rarely afforded. My Dad would sometimes take me into the Hechinger on Rockville Pike, or is it Hungerford Drive right there. I only know of one not-big box hardware store now, if it still exists. Not sure what I think of my bank, Chevy Chase, being taken over..... that's, well, my local bank. Considering Bank of America and Suntrust Bank took over other ones here, I suppose we'll live and adapt.

Sligo said...

I tried them once, but cannot see the real benefit of the hand scanners. You still have to go through the checkout, and is it any less effort to scan each item when you pick it up off the shelf than to scan all items at one time at the self-checkout? I would contend that that it requires more effort, on the whole. Also, if you change your mind on an item, you can't just put it back on the shelf - you have to manually delete it from your list (or end up paying for it).

Also, it doesn't work for fresh fruits & vegetables, so you still have to weight those at checkout.

I don't think there's any real benefit to the consumer, at least that I can see. I think part of it is that it allows the supermarket to promote certain items by giving you alerts when you are in a particular aisle.

In a word: gimmick (And I love gadgets.)

Thomas Hardman said...

Dang it, I need to stop posting after ingesting whatever the heck it is that Taco Bell uses as additives in their cheese roll-ups. So yummy. So hallucinogenic. Sets me right to "channeling". I wonder who the heck that was, ghost of Czar Nicholas, I guess. Or maybe Tatiana's grandchild. Da, beszoomnii.

There is a non-big-box Hardware Store at White's Hardware, which is also a designated historic landmark, etc. Right there at the corner of MD-28 and MD-97, Georgia Avenue and Norbeck Road. They are surprisingly well-stocked with things that almost anyone might reasonably expect to actually need. They have less emphasis on replacement windows and more emphasis on replacement washers, nuts, bolts, parts, unfinished lumber, shingles, fertilizers, pesticides, etc etc. Right next door to them is a small-engine and power-tools repair shop with an excellent reputation. Buy your John Deere at White's, get it repaired next door. White's is an Ace Hardware affiliate.

Besides, while you're on the way back home from White's, you can stop in at the Seizure World Giant and try their flatbed self-checkout scanners. Just keep in mind that all of that Giant stuff is subject to change... I somehow suspect that Royal Ahold might decide to divest itself and maybe, I dunno, buy Iceland or something.

perrik said...

Heck, maybe I'll buy Iceland. I like hot springs and ponies.

It took a little while for the self-scanner lanes to catch on. I loved them immediately, but then again I'm a geek. Alas, I discovered a disadvantage - since you can pay in cash, and use coins, I have been stuck in line TWICE behind someone who decides to use just coins to pay. $17 in dimes takes a loooong time. Thought my carton of eggs would hatch before this lady finished treating the checkout lane like a Coinstar machine.

Don't know why I've never tried the handheld scanner at Bloom. It's rare that I shop at the Colesville Giant, as I'd rather keep driving and hit either H-Mart or Shoppers (not crazy about the store, but oh my, those doughnuts!).

My non-big-box hardware store is Zimmerman's in Burtonsville (another Ace affiliate). The new traffic pattern caused by the Rt 29 bypass must be hurting business, except among U-turn aficionados.

retgroclk said...

The original concept behind self-checkout and self scanners- was the idea that prices could be kept lower- since less cashiers were needed.

Less cashiers-- less salary., less benefits , etc etc.

The idea has failed- prices have risen and customer service has declined

squirrelist said...

Apart form the gee-wiz factor, the scanners are mostly for the benefit of the store. If you do all the work up front, you spend less time in line, which means that cashiers can process more people in a given time, which means less cashiers are required.

You can do vegetables. What you need to do is use the new scale/printers in the produce section, which prints a barcode sticker you can put on your bag. Wegmans has been doing this for at least 10 years, likely because there is no way cashiers are going to remember the 100+ varieties of produce they have available. Too bad Giant forgets to put PLU numbers on all the items.

I don't use the scanners all the time. If I am only buying a handful of items, I don't use the scanners. It is faster to scan 3 or 4 items manually than check out a scanner and check it back in. Usually I use it if I have my backpack with me. Then I just have to wander around the store and stuff my backpack. I feel kind of shady doing that though.

On a side note, you can still get the bring-your-own-bag discount, even at the self-checkout. Just go into the produce browser screen and on the first page there should be an item for using your own bag.

Dan Reed said...

My mother tells me of a family who walked out of Stop and Sh-er, Giant with a shopping cart of fully-bagged food. They used the self-scanners and "forgot" to hit up the register on the way out.

Either way, I actually do most of my shopping at the Shoppers in College Park because it's closer to where I live and, of course, those doughnuts. Oh, God, those doughnuts. So very big, and yet so soft.

retgroclk said...

Dan- I know what you mean about those doughnuts-- The Bavarian Cream filled and the chocolate iced cake doughnuts are to die for.

Gary said...

I've noticed an incredible decline in suckage in the SS Giant in the past year and a half - store isn't a piece of crap, prices are better, lines don't extend all the way to the back of the store (most of the time).

I love the scan-it-myself - the real bonus is the occasional extra discount they throw at you as you wander around the store - i saved a buck each on OJ and butter as I shopped. Coool!

Russell said...

Stop & Shop and Giant share the same, new, lame logo:


Clancy said...

I've used the scanners of six separate trips to the SS Giant and have experienced problems on three of those. On one, the scanner simply would not read the barcode at the checkout stand. No matter what I did, it would not read it. An employee finally came around to help me, taking the scanner from my hand while slowly stating, "All you need to do is scan this here." After several minutes, they asked me to try another checkout station, "because this one is out of order."

On the other two, after scanning the barcode at the checkout station, I was informed by the magic wand to go to checkout stand with a cashier for an "audit." Both times, the cashiers were more than happy to share their distaste for the scanners and the fact that they were never trained on how to use them. The first time this happened, it took two cashiers, a manager, and the guy who was helping customers learn how to use the scanners to determine that the scanner "was broken" and determining that they should simply check me out the old fashioned way.

I'm worried that the scanners are just another way of doing away with union jobs, but found that they do speed up the shopping experience (when the work). I can pick the items as I wander through the store, scan them, put it in my reusable bag, and zip through checkout. I also like how it tells me when something I regularly buy is on sale.