UPC codes & grocery scanning

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Dean
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UPC codes & grocery scanning

Post by Dean » 28 Jan 2007 17:17

Did a GOOGLE search on the history of UPC codes, and grocery scanning. Interesting stuff.

KROGER did test trials...yet the first true item to be placed under a UPC scanner in a retail store was a 10-pack of Wrigley's gum @ a MARSH market in Troy, Ohio on 1/26/74.

Obviously, it is now the norm.

I remember the City of Industry CA ALPHA BETA did not have scanners for quite some time. When they finally arrived...they were obviously hand-me-downs from another store. Pretty worn out by the time they were "installed".

Also, THRIFTY DRUG was LATE in obtaining scanners. They literally were using SWEDA registers that had each column for the figure. Meaning, for example, you had to hit the $1 button and the .10 button for 1.10. This was well into the mid-80s. Comically, recently saw this EXACT register in the re-sale section of a restaurant supply shop.

TRADER JOE'S just added scanners within the past few years!

Were there specific chains that jumped to UPC/scanning to sooner than others...and others that were later than others?

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Post by Terry K » 28 Jan 2007 18:49

The grandaddy of them all..Wal-Mart had scanners in its stores by 1984. They had started testing them at some stores and others didn't have the scanner but had the registers to support it.

By the time 1987 came around Wal-Mart was almost all-scanning by then.

I recall the early WMT scanners were NCR based and an off shoot of the grocery scanners.

WMT would in non-scanning stores ring up stuff as <dept #> enter <price> enter and the receipts were incredibly narrow.

Now, Aldi on the other hand didn't get into scanning until well into the 2000s...their checkers had to memorize all of the prices and seldom if ever would they make a mistake.

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Post by Super S » 28 Jan 2007 20:36

I remember in the mid-late 1980s in Boise, Albertsons had several different models of cash registers in use. The Broadway store did not have scanners until around 1987, they then installed the NCR setup with the red numbers. That was the most common one Albertsons used. Albertsons also, at the same time, had NCR 255's with scanners at Fairview and Five Mile, and the now-demolished former Safeway at Overland and Vista kept the setup Safeway used (Datachecker?) for a few years, then switched to a newer NCR setup in the late 80s. And the Franklin store had Data Terminal Systems registers with scanners before they switched to the red-number NCR's.

It used to be somewhat common for chains to have different registers depending on when they were built or remodeled, as well as where they were located, as the costs came down they were able to update most of them at the same time.

TW-Upstate NY
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Post by TW-Upstate NY » 29 Jan 2007 09:53

Aldi set up shop around here in '97 with a single store in Johnstown and as I recall, they had scanners from the beginning. Here's something interesting about their private label products I've noticed. Look at the placement of the bar codes on the items. They seem to be on every "face" of the item. I guess this is part of their business model from an efficiency standpoint in that no matter how the item is placed on the counter there is a barcode which will face the scanner and the cashier doesn't have to go looking for it. I've never seen anything else quite like it actually.

Dean
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Post by Dean » 29 Jan 2007 11:39

JCPenney began moving to scanning with a "trigger-type" scanner that the clerk had to run directly on the tag for the product/price to register.

Target began moving to scanning with price tags that the clerk entered the product code from the price tag.

The current City of Industry CA SAM'S began as PRICESAVERS then became PACE, then SAM'S. Back then...I remember that each register had two (2) clerks. One (1) clerk transferred the products from one (1) cart to the other...while calling out the product codes...that the second clerk actually rang into the register.

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J-Mac
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Post by J-Mac » 29 Jan 2007 12:23

Dean wrote:JCPenney began moving to scanning with a "trigger-type" scanner that the clerk had to run directly on the tag for the product/price to register.

Target began moving to scanning with price tags that the clerk entered the product code from the price tag.

The current City of Industry CA SAM'S began as PRICESAVERS then became PACE, then SAM'S. Back then...I remember that each register had two (2) clerks. One (1) clerk transferred the products from one (1) cart to the other...while calling out the product codes...that the second clerk actually rang into the register.
I remember some stores (JCPenney, Sears???) using a "light pen" that they ran over the numbers on a tag - the numbers were printed like numbers on a check, and the machine would recognize the code - most of the time. I was too young to remember the years, probably pre-1986. I do recall some grumbling and 10-key input because the light pen wouldn't always work. Some libraries used the same technology even later on.

Price Club (pre-Costco) was set up in the same manner as you mentioned, with one clerk reading codes and the other operating a 10-key. I think most of those two person teams would still beat today's scanning teams in a time trial (notice they brought back the second person to bag items, at least on a floating basis?) Most of the cart loading folk had the basic merchandise codes memorized, like toilet paper, paper towels, soda, etc... didn't have to look for the codes, and read the codes off fast enough that the 10-key operator *had* to be good.

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Dave
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Post by Dave » 29 Jan 2007 14:44

J-Mac wrote:Price Club (pre-Costco) was set up in the same manner as you mentioned, with one clerk reading codes and the other operating a 10-key...
I remember certain items that were available at both Price Club and regular supermarkets (large sizes of Tide detergent come to mind) had "Price Club item #XXXXXX" printed on the package in both places.

That brings up the question as to whether those Price Club PLUs were connected in any way to the "regular" UPC for an item, or were they Price Club specific? I imagine at the time that the UPC was not as widespread as it is today, and the technology to print out UPC labels in store was probably pretty expensive, if it existed at all.

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Post by klkla » 29 Jan 2007 16:10

Terry K wrote:The grandaddy of them all..Wal-Mart had scanners in its stores by 1984. They had started testing them at some stores and others didn't have the scanner but had the registers to support it.
If memory serves correctly, Ralphs was the first chain to convert to scanners 100% in 1979 or 1980. They used huge IBM registers. It's amazing how small registers are now, compared to then.

I worked for Mayfair at the time and we got NCR 'scan capable' registers in 1980 but they didn't start installing the actual scanners until many years after that.

krogerclerk
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Post by krogerclerk » 29 Jan 2007 16:34

JCPenney was the primary user of the magnetic light pen which did indeed use MICR numbers similar to checks. I believe Sears and some department stores dabbled in the MICR technology as well, but the UPC scanning technology became the norm by the mid/late-80's.

Grand Union/Big Star was heavy on the NSC/ICL POStalker scanner, which the gimick was a synthesized voice called out the price as the item was scanned. A few Kroger Sav-On's in the Carolinas used the same system. Food Giant in Atlanta, part of SuperValu/Delhaize at the time also used the NSC/ICL system. Fujitsu has since acquired the POS business of ICL and most Fujistu's are IBM SurePOS clones.

Kroger used a hodgepodge of systems, NCR 1255 and IBM 3660 were the most common in the 80's, along with the NSC's in the Carolinas. Kroger didn't have scales integrated into the registers until the late 80's and early 90's and a few locations were still on non-scanning systems in the early 90's- Opelika, Alabama, an early-80's greenhouse comes to mind.

Ralphs, Publix, and Giant-MD all claim to be the first chains to convert to scanning in all their locations and probably are the first in their particular markets. The regionals tended to adopt the technology faster than Kroger, Safeway, A&P, Winn-Dixie and Albertson's. Discount stores such as Wal-Mart,KMart, Target, Richway, Zayre, etc. came to scanning later than the grocery operators, but once they did they utilized the capibilities for ordering, inventory tracking, etc. that the supermarket chains only began utilizing in the 90's. Most grocers only used the scanners to eliminate price stamping or stickering and to speed up the checkout.
The faster checkout only worked in theory as generally on about 75% of SKU's/UPC's were on file and had to be manually rang on the department key well into the early 90's, thus the infamous price check and line holdups.

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J-Mac
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Post by J-Mac » 29 Jan 2007 23:08

Dave wrote:I remember certain items that were available at both Price Club and regular supermarkets (large sizes of Tide detergent come to mind) had "Price Club item #XXXXXX" printed on the package in both places.

That brings up the question as to whether those Price Club PLUs were connected in any way to the "regular" UPC for an item, or were they Price Club specific? I imagine at the time that the UPC was not as widespread as it is today, and the technology to print out UPC labels in store was probably pretty expensive, if it existed at all.
Actually, it appears as though Costco still uses this approach to item numbers. For example, a bag of chips I have shows a UPC = 028400026697 but both the shelf tag and the receipt show an item number of 366860. Of course, that means there is a database someplace that relates the two numbers. Some items show "Item #" on them, and I note that private label products display the item number and incorporate it into the UPC number.

I'm sure having the "Price Club" name on products drew traditional grocers ire, perhaps this is why it now its shortened to "Item #" if at all.
Last edited by J-Mac on 29 Jan 2007 23:11, edited 1 time in total.

rich
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Post by rich » 29 Jan 2007 23:09

Pre-scanner, there were shortcuts such as unique numerical codes which would get punched in instead of dollars and cents. I can recall Pick-n-Pay in Cleveland having this in the late 70s. National Tea piloted something like this in the early 70s.

The early scanners had their problems, but price checks were a regular headache in the days before scanners--they were most annoying in discount department stores, where the size of the store and relatively small staffs meant that it would take forever to get a price validated. K-Mart and Zayre were usually the worst. Even now, stores have trouble making sure that price signs match what's in the computer. I got 5 lbs of tangerines for free at Giant, today, because the signs in the produce department had not caught up with what was ion the scanner--they still had last week's marked down price.

I forgot about the voice technology. Slightly creepy but handy when it first was introduced. Sometimes I wish it was still around, although it would be much slower than the current systems.


When you look at any kind of marketing or technological innovation, it's been the regionals that jumped in first. It's easier to experiment with something new if you are a small operation.

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Post by tesg » 29 Jan 2007 23:53

Terry K wrote:Now, Aldi on the other hand didn't get into scanning until well into the 2000s...their checkers had to memorize all of the prices and seldom if ever would they make a mistake.
That always amazed me. They never stamped prices on anything...the cashiers just knew what everything cost. And they could process an order every bit as fast as they can today with the scanners. One of the advantages of a small selection of merchandise, I suppose. Most Aldi's here had gone to scanners by the late 1990's.

When I first moved to Iowa in 1991, most Fareways were not only scanner-free, but had old mechanical cash registers. Some STILL did within the past few years.
Last edited by tesg on 29 Jan 2007 23:58, edited 1 time in total.

BillyGr
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Post by BillyGr » 29 Jan 2007 23:55

TW-Upstate NY wrote:Aldi set up shop around here in '97 with a single store in Johnstown and as I recall, they had scanners from the beginning. Here's something interesting about their private label products I've noticed. Look at the placement of the bar codes on the items. They seem to be on every "face" of the item. I guess this is part of their business model from an efficiency standpoint in that no matter how the item is placed on the counter there is a barcode which will face the scanner and the cashier doesn't have to go looking for it. I've never seen anything else quite like it actually.
I was going to say the the Hudson one opened around a similar time, and had scanners as well - maybe they used some of the newer stores as a "test" and their "older" stores didn't update until later on?
You may notice that many of the items seem to have what is basically a printed price on them (something like <00.49> for example) - maybe that was around before scanning also?

Another item - Grand Union (in some stores) didn't have scanners either, including at least one smaller store in Schodack (NY) up until it closed during their bankruptcy around 2000. I would guess that any of the remaining stores do have scanners now, as they should have had plenty of equipment from all the closed stores!

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Post by Steve Landry » 30 Jan 2007 09:26

BTW..............Food Fair/Pantry Pride was FIRST in Florida (and possibly in the N.E.) with scanners.......not Publix. Publix was indeed the first chain to be FULLY converted to scanners in Florida.

Goes along with the claim that Publix was the first supermarket chain in Florida. Carl's Market was the FIRST supermarket chain in Florida. Food Fair bought Carl's.

;)
The Food Fair Empire

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Post by tkaye » 02 Feb 2007 00:06

I was at the library looking through some old issues of Safeway News and saw a cover story (from around '73 or '74, I believe) showing a scanning system they were piloting in a store in Austin, Tex. The checker used a light pen. They also showed an example of the barcode and it wasn't like any I've ever seen in use. (They must have placed stickers on all the items or something, since the products obviously wouldn't have had the barcode printed on the package.) A feature of the system that was also touted was a display in the manager's office that would allow him to monitor the transactions of any register in the store in real-time. The digital price display on the checkstand was also pointed toward the manager's office and not at the customer. Very interesting -- and I never read any more about it. Seems as if using a light pen in a grocery store would be extremely inefficient.

I remember my local Albertson's in Bremerton, Wash. having no scanners and using a noisy beige-colored NCR register with an orangish-colored price display (not sure of the model, but I would imagine it's familiar from this description) until the store was remodeled in 1991. There were always problems with register tape jams and the cover was often left off the machine, showing the inner workings of the tape feeding and printing mechanism. Safeway had IBM units that were the same as Kmart from what I recall. The final convert to scanners locally had to be Grocery Outlet, though... they didn't get them until they moved to a new (ex-Safeway) location about 10 years ago.

As for the two-employee checkstand operation described at Price Club, I remember Costco doing that as well. They had bright green tags with SKUs on each item for the person to call out.

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