It all adds up

11/02/2012 04:08:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Everybody makes mistakes. But when those mistakes

involve mis-rings for pricey fruits or vegetables, they can hurt your bottom line.

Tightening up the checkout process and taking steps to prevent erroneous ring-throughs can help keep profits from walking out the front door.

The introduction of Price Look-Up numbers more than a decade ago did wonders to ensure a correct ring, retailers and industry experts say.

In the case of apples, for example, up to 8% of the time, checkers who were unable to identify unfamiliar varieties rang them up as the usually lower-priced red delicious, says Ronnie De Le Cruz of Salinas, Calif.-based De Le Cruz Consulting and Training.

click image to zoomproduce checkout accuracyPamela RiemenschneiderPLUs and Universal Product Codes for fixed-weight packages have significantly reduced the problem of mis-rings but not eliminated it, especially for new or organic items, says Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Services, Monrovia, Calif.

Sometimes the physical size of the PLU is problematic.

“Many growers and shippers use the label for marketing, and the PLU number is really small and below the Produce Marketing Association’s recommendation of 12 points,” Spezzano says.


GS1 to the rescue

GS1 labels now being introduced could be a big help in ensuring an accurate ring-through.

The label has a PLU and UPC barcode, and it’s used both on fixed and scalable items that new checkout software can read.

“If (the item) has to be scaled, (the label) will call for it, and the system does the computing of what it is, whose it is, weight and retail price,” Spezzano says.

“When implemented, it will reduce the error factors — especially on weighable items and organic items, which is where most mistakes occur at the checkout.”

Many chains have installed or are in the process of installing GS1 systems, but few have started to use them.

“I think they are waiting for the growers and shippers to catch up,” Spezzano says.

Lincoln, Neb.-based B&R Stores is just starting to work with a GS1 system, says produce director Randy Bohaty.

“That will take us one notch up,” he says.


Mis-rings a rarity

Mis-rings for produce are practically nonexistent for Sunset Foods Inc., a group of five stores based in Highland Park, Ill., says Vince Mastromauro, produce director.

The stores ensure accurate ring-through by weighing shoppers’ fruits and vegetables before they leave the produce department.

Stores designate two employees who weigh customers’ fruits and vegetables on a scale that prints out a barcode that the cashier scans at checkout.

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