Safeway custoomers punch in the bacon

September 20, 1990|By Cindy Harper-Evans | Cindy Harper-Evans,Sun Staff Correspondent

GREENBELT -- Safeway's customers here looked skeptical at first.

But many eventually made their way with relative ease through the four do-it-yourself checkout lanes -- the first of their kind in Maryland.

"It's not very difficult; you just push a few buttons and you're through," said Oswald Purdie, 32, who stopped at the Greenway Center grocery store to buy a bag of chips to accompany the late-afternoon cartoons on television.

The automated checkout machines that opened yesterday are equipped with a color video terminal, computer keyboard and the same kind of laser-activated bar scanner used in conventional checkout lanes.

After scanning in the items, customers take their printed-out bills toa central cashier booth and pay. Customers seemed awed by the novelty of it all yesterday, but weren't certain they'd always opt to use the system over regular checkout lanes.

"It doesn't give you a chance to write a check for your groceries if you're busy scanning them yourself," said shopper Lorrie Moran.

Other customers said the new system would be fine for someone shopping for a few items but could be a problem for someone buying a lotof groceries or accompanied by small children.

"Safeway should give me a 10 percent discount since I'm doing (( all the work now," said a customer who came through the new lane with his young daughter. No such luck.

Features that customers did find beneficial were the ability to subtotal at will and to see prices easily.

"But what about the poor cashiers? Don't replace them with all those buttons," said Ann Nalley, a Seabrook resident who stopped in to buy a box of candy.

Safeway officials said no jobs will be lost as a result of the %J do-it-yourself lanes.

And for those who like the personal touch of a cashier but also like to fiddle with computers, rest easy. At the close of the sale, a cashier appears on the video screen thanking you for shopping at Safeway.

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