Exotic Product Innovations in American Supermarkets

In the spirit of bringing the traveler’s observational eye everywhere, including my own hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island, I feel compelled to travel-blog the innovations I spotted at the Stop & Shop today during my three-week trip home to help out after my father’s bike accident. My mother and I went shopping after a calm suburban yoga class, and I was amazed by the innovation in the suburban behemoth supermarkets.

My mother just wowed me time and again with the tricks she has picked up at the Stop & Shop. Grocery shopping has never been so futuristic or efficient. When we started shopping, she showed me a touch-screen where she ordered the week’s deli meats and cheeses. I went to pick them up ten minutes later–all ready, no waiting by the deli counter!

But that was nothing compared to the store’s magic wand device that allows shoppers to scan their own purchases. Now shoppers can keep a running tally of how much they have spent and what they’ve bought, and the checker only rings up items like produce, saving time at the register. And that means the checker doesn’t scan your food, you do.

I asked my mother how they would know that she had actually scanned everything in her cloth bags. “They audit you every once in a while,” she said. She has been audited twice. The whole system is based on trust. I have always been amazed at how supermarkets accept customers popping pieces of fruit or nuts from the bulk bins into their mouths–but I suppose, trust is just an integral part of the American supermarket system. And now the trust just goes deeper, gets institutionalized into the system.
In Brazil, the defining characteristic of the supermarket is the priority line for pregnant women and the disabled.

Shopping at Stop & Shop did remind me of how incredibly efficient America can be–all this energy put into continual product innovation. There’s something to be proud of! But Americans can be sweet too, lest I think that’s just a quality I admire in other cultures. I’m developing a real soft spot for this Stop & Shop too. Two weeks ago, I stopped to buy a pot of yellow mums and a Get Well balloon for my father, but then realized I had left my wallet at home. (A common occurrence.) The two chatty women working the counter let me take my purchases without paying for them, and told me to come back when it was convenient. I finally paid another woman at the floral shop today, and asked her to tell the women who work during the week. I don’t want them to think I didn’t come back to pay. Trust!

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