Try checking yourself out at City Market |

Try checking yourself out at City Market

Julian Vogt, 91, isn’t sure cash registers were even in use when he first started going to the store as a young boy.

Vogt has witnessed several retailing revolutions through the decades since then. These days, he’s getting a kick out of the most recent retailing invention to hit the Roaring Fork Valley – totally automated checkout stands at City Market that don’t require a store employee to ring up sales.

“I think they are great,” Vogt said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after using City Market’s automated U-Scan system for the second time to buy groceries. “It’s easy … but I needed a little help the first time.”

City Market installed its first U-Scan check-out system six years ago, said company spokesperson Rhonda Toland. They were installed in stores in El Jebel, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle about a month ago.

Each U-Scan cluster of four check-out points is dedicated to express lines for shoppers with 10 items or less. “That’s where they are most effective,” Toland said. “This can move people along more quickly.”

Each cluster has at least one store employee to help explain the system and to handle problems should they occur.

“Does this take checks?” one customer shouted to an employee during a busy spurt in the U-Scan section on Tuesday.

The employee answered, “Yes. It takes checks,” plus coins, currency and numerous credit cards. The system also accepts coupons with the attendant’s help.

Each of the four sales points are identical. The first thing the shopper comes to is a small table for stacking items.

Attached to the table is a scanner for entering each purchase into the computer.

Above the scanner is a computer touch screen. It instructs shoppers to press a start box, and boxes to select written and voice instructions in English or Spanish.

A recorded voice then asks whether the shopper has a Value Card and coupons. At this juncture, the shopper presses the “Yes” or “No” box on the screen. Additional instructions follow for checks and other transactions.

Perhaps the trickiest transaction for first time shoppers are apples, oranges and other produce. Here’s how to ring up those sales.

Posted to the left and right of the touch screen are small photographs of each produce item, and a number is listed below. Each piece of produce has a sticker with its number on it, along with a bar code for scanning. Just punch in the item’s number, and the scanner will weigh the purchase and ring it up.

After shoppers drag their items across the scanner, shoppers place them in plastic bags to the right. Above the bags are slots for coins, trays for bills and a credit card scanner. To the right of that, there’s a slot where change is issued, and receipts are spurted out.

Total time for this reporter to ring up a steak, lunch meat, two apples and a roll of paper towel was less than two minutes, with a store employee walking him through it.

On Tuesday, City Market was busy. Although the U-Scan system was getting plenty of action, the traditional check-out stands were doing the bulk of the store’s business.

Cindy Bartel was one of those traditional shoppers, and said she hadn’t thought of using the U-Scan system yet. “I’m such a creature of habit,” she said.

Krista Paradise, of Carbondale, actively shunned the new system. “I like the human contact,” she said. She also questioned whether the automated system would put employees out of work. Toland said worker hours haven’t dropped.

The U-Scan system can perform any transaction the other check-out stations can perform.

As for potential beer and cigarette sales to underage shoppers, Toland said the computer automatically signals the City Market attendant employee on duty, so they can verify the buyer’s age if necessary.

“We have an employee keeping an eye on them,” Toland said.

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