Price scanners an acceptable substitute for stickers

Debate rages in Massachusetts over need for price tags on individual grocery items

Standing as a curious bulwark against advancing retail technology, Massachusetts is one of only two states that require stores to place price tags on individual grocery items ... and a move is afoot here in the Bay State to leave Michigan all by its lonesome on this one.

Put me down as being OK with this bow to the 21st Century, even though it means siding with Wal-Mart, which is pushing the change in a radio advertising campaign. The idea is that stores would place price-check scanners at the end of aisles instead of tiny sticky notes on each and every can of peas and box of pasta.

From this morning's Boston Globe:

Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, said the bill (to repeal mandatory item pricing) would provide plenty of protections to consumers. For example, the proposed law would require retailers to demonstrate that scanners are 98 percent accurate before they are approved by the state Division of Standards, which currently oversees the item pricing enforcement. In addition, grocery stores would need to maintain shelf label signs that are at least 1 inch high and would have to sign an affidavit that guarantees workers will not lose their jobs once scanners are installed.

Moreover, the bill would double the fine for any violations to $200 up to $5,000 per infraction. Since 2004, the state Division of Standards has collected about $4 million from businesses that have violated the item pricing law.

No, the scanners probably won't be accurate 98 percent of the time, and, yes, the Wal-Marts of the world will find a way to parlay this change into lower payrolls.

But continuing the archaic practice of sticking a price tag on each and every item in grocery stores makes about as much sense as having the checkout clerks go back to ringing up everything by hand.

Let technology do its thing here.  

And, yes, I do all the grocery shopping for my household.

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