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Smart Buying

Save Money and Time at the Grocery

High-tech scan-as-you-go devices give you customized coupons.

Bill Beard, 57, admits he's a "gadget guy." which explains why, during a recent trip to a Giant supermarket in Rockville, Md., he's scanning his groceries as he loads them into the cart. A handheld gizmo he's using makes a ka-ching sound as it displays digital coupons on a 5-inch screen for items on the shelves near him.

"It's fun to be ahead of the curve, but I can envision a time when this will be the usual way to shop, rather than the exception," says Beard.

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Long on the drawing board, smart-shopping technologies will soon hit the aisles of a grocer near you. The EasyShop device, which lets Beard streamline his checkout by scanning a single barcode for the entire contents of his cart, is in use in more than 90 Stop & Shop stores in the Northeast and may soon spread to Giant stores in the mid-Atlantic states.

A more revolutionary competitor is MediaCart, a system that uses Microsoft technology and is expected to appear in January 2009 at major retailers. It will get a test run at selected ShopRite stores in the New York metro area.

MediaCart can find an item in the store for you, display detailed price and nutrition information, and suggest recipes using the ingredients in your cart. It'll also display digital coupons as you pass items on the shelves. Shoppers who swipe their loyalty card will receive selected coupons based on past purchases. You can even upload a shopping list from your home PC that will pop up, organized by aisle, on the cart's 12-inch screen.

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