[image] Why Supermarkets Are Going Bananas Over Computers by Chris Barnett *** Better profits in the long run and shorter lines at the checkstand. Will it Really Work? *** One Saturday late last June, Jim and Sharon Roberts of Troy, Ohio, noticed something strange when they walked into Marsh's Supermarket to do their weekly shopping. The checkers weren't pounding on the cash registers like they normally do. Instead they were simply sliding each item across a smoky glass window build into the newly installed checkstands. Just by passing the item across the glass, the price automatically appeared on a readout sign, the untouched cash register recorded the sale and the register tape spelled out each item purchased, sometimes by brand name, along with the price. The Robertses quickly discovered that their neighborhood supermarket had been turned into a laboratory: National Cash Register Company and Marsh's Supermarkets, Incorporated, had select the Troy store to test some unusual new equipment. An electronic scanner that automatically "reads" code affixed to every item in the store, feeds everything it reads into a computer in the backroom and gives manager Earl Frysinger a mountain of facts and figures designed to help him run the store more effectively and more profitably had replaced the good old cash register. What's more, the test results at the Marsh's store, together with findings of other market tests of additional scanning equipment around the country, are destined to have a devastating impact--not only on the lives of millions of American shoppers but on the entire grocery industry--wholesalers and retailers as well as the manufacturers of every item you find on your foodstore's shelves. Overstatement? Figure it out for yourself. At this very moment salesmen for over a dozen of the nation's biggest or most aggressive business machine and data processing equipment makers are amorously courting retail food chains to persuade them to computerize their checkout systems, indeed the entire store operation--from buying to inventory control to cash flow. The retailers, cautious but not all that skeptical, recognize they can no Reprinted courtesy United Airlines Mainliner Magazine. Copyright 1974 East/West Network, Inc.