Asda's new barcode scanner cuts queueing by two-thirds

Asda's new Rapid Scan check-out system

Some lucky Asda customers are now speeding through the checkout, with the unveiling of a new type of high-tech scanner.

The Rapid Scan, from Germany's Wincor Nixdorf, automatically checks the barcode of each item as it passes along the conveyor belt. It can detect it from any angle, even from below, meaning there's no need for the operator to fiddle around - just pop the items on in a line and let the system do its work. "It's easy, it's stress free, and you don't feel there's someone breathing down your neck," says a spokeswoman.

Asda claims that the high-tech scanner can speed up the checkout process by as much as three times, partly because of a 'split conveyor' system. This allows one customer to be paying and bagging up while the next passes their shopping through the device.

For anyone worried about discounts, Asda applies these automatically through the till, so there's no need to worry that your end-of-the-day bargain will go through at full price. And there'll be no robot voices complaining of unexpected items in the bagging area, as with current self-service systems. In any case, says Asda, there will always be an attendant on hand to help.

The first UK outing for the system is at the company's York superstore; it's still experimental, though, and there's no date for a national roll-out.

"We leave them in-store until we have enough customer feedback and it's been trialled with all ages and different-sized baskets," said a spokeswoman. "It's very early days, and a decision will be made further down the line."

The company claims the system's proving highly popular with customers of all ages - although as the York store's frequently used to test out new ideas, its customers may be more tech-savvy than most.

But are customers really that concerned about saving a minute or two at the checkout? Well, maybe. While Britons have long been famous for their patient queuing, all that seems to be changing. A survey last year from YouGov found that 59 percent of UK shoppers weren't prepared to wait in line, saying they'd go to another store or shop online instead. However, nearly nine in ten said they blamed poor staffing for delays, meaning Asda would do well to make sure there's plenty of help.

Dr Sue Eccles of Bournemouth University, who has researched shopping behaviour, says she believes Rapid Scan could take off - as long as it isn't used as a way of cutting staff levels. "I think people like to have that human interaction, and I would be interested to see how effective it really was in cutting queues and increasing customer satisfaction," she says.

Seven of the craziest supermarket glitches
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Asda's new barcode scanner cuts queueing by two-thirds

One of the most popular glitches, was a wine deal at Tesco back in November 2012, where a series of offers clashed, leaving a bottle of £9.99 wine selling for £1.50.

The 'three wines for £10' deal apparently clashed with a '25% off when you buy six or more bottles' deal. The 25% was accidentally taken off the original price rather than the reduced one, leaving the wine at rock bottom prices. Deal-hunters cleared the shelves around the country.

Perhaps the most popular glitch from Tesco came in June 2011, when instead of taking £4 off the cost of a £20 case of beer, the supermarket accidentally started selling the cases for £4. The ensuring rush was nicknamed the 'beer stampede'.

Sadly not every supermarket pricing glitch comes with such a happy ending for consumers. In March last year the bargain-hunters thought their luck was in, when Tesco accidentally priced the new iPad at just £44.99 instead of around £650. Sadly it spotted the mistake before shipping the goods. The small print on its website meant it could refuse to sell at this price, and refund their customers instead.

In September 2012, Asda was responsible for one of the most expensive glitches. The Asda Price Guarantee offered vouchers to customers who could have got their shopping cheaper elsewhere.

However, when certain trigger products were in the basket, the supermarket massively under-priced the shopping at other supermarkets, and offered huge vouchers to shoppers. In many instances the vouchers came to roughly the same as the cost of the shopping.

In April, a mistake on their website resulted in Tesco selling 8 packs of Bulmers cider 568ml bottles for £5 - rather than a six pack for £8.

Deal-hunters snapped up the deal online, and had varying degrees of success. Some had their order delivered in full, others had six delivered for £5 - and were able to negotiate their way to another two, while others were offered six for £5 or their money back.

October last year saw one of the most famous glitches, when Tesco Terry's Chocolate Oranges were subject to two deals at the same time, and the price dropped from £2.75 to 29p. There were plenty of people getting chocolate oranges last Christmas.

A buy-one-get-one-free deal went awry at Tesco in March. People putting four tubs of I can't Believe It's Not Butter or Oykos yogurt packs into the trolley were only being charged for one.

Soon the online deal-hunting community was in action, with one person bagging 50 tubs of butter and 22 pots of yogurt for £8.79 - a saving of £133.89.


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