Improved (supermarket) shopping

A row of colourful shopping trolleys. Photo:

A row of colourful shopping trolleys. Photo:

When I go to the supermarket, I frequently get completely lost looking for items. Even when I am looking for things that are identical to those I bought the previous week, I might have forgotten where to find them, or else their shelf location has been changed.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a terminal at the front of the store from which you could select those items whose location you want to know, and have the machine produce a shelf map indicating where to find what you want. There would be no need to access the terminal for a complete list of all the items you wanted, since you might either know where they were, or prefer to browse the shelves in any case. But you could be saved a lot of time and hassle by being directed to the correct shelf for items you (and often the staff) cannot locate.

A variation of this would be to be able to enter your complete shopping list, either by keyboard, pointer or touch-screen, and have the computer sort the list into aisle and shelf order and produce a route map guiding you around the store for a more rapid expedition than normal. Gone would be the days when the first and second items on your list are at opposite ends of the supermarket, only for you discover that the third item on the list was somewhere in the vicinity of the first.

Using RFIDs on all products would obviously make this somewhat easier for the store managers to implement, but it doesn’t really require much in the way of technology even now.

Contributors: Mark R. Diamond