Shop Until Your 'Buddy' Drops

I never liked shopping at stores - or for that matter shopping at all! As simple corner grocery stores have closed and mega stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc. have taken their place, shopping hasn’t gotten any easier. Not having a photographic memory, if I’m doing the grocery shopping for our community there is always one item that I just can’t find and go searching in aisle after aisle for. Sometimes, even the store clerks are perplexed. Even if I managed to memorize locations of items, the store decides at times to rearrange that location - perhaps to get shoppers to go down other aisles. At times item locations make no sense at all. The signs at the end of the aisles prove useless, then again, who reads them anyway.

My elderly mother likes those low calorie flavored rice cakes. I have gone in different grocery stores in search of them for her. Now some grocery stores put those rice cakes in the snack aisle. Another store decides on the cereal section. And still another one locates them next to the bread. I gave up trying to find rice cakes at one grocery store. Have you had a similar frustration grocery shopping - I bet you have.

At times the dizzying array of selections on aisle shelves makes picking out what you want like finding a needle in a hay stack. I have spent more time than I would like to admit in the cereal aisle trying to find something as simple as a box of Raisin Brand. And forget about looking in the pharmacy section - so many little bottles or boxes with little print are crammed onto shelves that one develops a medical problem trying to find the medication to cure another medical problem.

So as you can see, I do not enjoy shopping - and large stores have only made it less enjoyable. But there may be hope for people like me - the Stop & Shop supermarket chain in partnership with IBM is trying a new technology in their New England supermarkets - the "Shopping Buddy," also know as the "Cart Companion." (cuesol.com) This is a wireless touch screen browser device that is attached to a shopping cart and delivers personalized services and incentives when activated with one’s frequent shopper card. Each cart also has a RFID (radio frequency identification tag) which triggers certain offers and can help shoppers find anything in the store and draw a path to find it. This technology is based on a two year study of what shoppers actually wanted as they shop. Here are some other helpful features of the Shopping Buddy:

Based on your frequent shopper card, your buying history and favorite items are available in real time as you shop. Even better, you also have the ability to download your shopping list at home from the store website or email it to the website and download it into the Shopping Buddy at the store to eliminate the need for carrying that famous scrawled grocery list on a piece of paper.

Can’t find an item? A graphical product locator oriented to your exact location in the store will guide you to it. Need to get those ingredients in a hurry for some last minute turkey stuffing from scratch recipe before Thanksgiving? The Shopping Buddy can show you the recipe according to grocery store aisle location for quick shopping.

As you shop, you can scan in each item. The Shopping Buddy will keep a running total of how much you are spending so you won’t be surprised at checkout. Actually scanning items yourself will eliminate the need to wait in line at the check-out. You can also check the price of each item before you buy it.

As you walk down the supermarket aisles promotions and paperless coupons will pop-up on the shopping buddy screen. To take advantage of a deal you just have to touch the screen and scan the item.

Remember having to take a number and stand in line at the deli? With the Shopping Buddy you can place an order at the deli from anywhere in the store. When it’s ready, you receive a notification to just pick it up.

Another handy tool for shopping is IBM’s "Everywhere Display." This transforms any surface into a virtual interactive touch screen computer. Next to an item on the grocery store shelf the Everywhere Display can give you information about the item including videos and web based information. It can tell you if an item is in stock and if not you can then and there place a special order for it. Of course, promotional savings are attached to these displays as well.

The Shopping Buddy is available in 20 stores in New England now and we will see another 150 installations in both Stop & Shop and its sister chain Giant (Washington DC area) by the end of 2005. Phil Lembert for Consumer Insight predicts, "As this technology becomes cheaper and more compact, we can expect to see both cart mounted computers and "Everywhere" displays, in practically all supermarkets and mass retailers by 2008." There is hope for my changing my mind on the shopping experience yet!

Once I traveled on a plane next to a college age student who had attended Catholic schools, made the First Fridays, and had no idea why. So since June is a month traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let’s look at helpful webpages about that devotion.

Brother Craig here at the monastery has put together a well-researched article on the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart from the Early Church until modern times at monksofadoration.org/earlyhrt.html.

You can go to The Sacred Heart Online Prayer Retreat sacredheartprayers.com for a retreat "designed to give a sense of deeper movement in our Journey into the Heart of our God."

Then you can check out "Heart to Heart" at sacredheartdevotion.com whose apostolic mission is for the renewal of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Certainly you will want to go to the webpage of the National Enthronement Center in Fairhaven, Massachusetts to learn how to enthrone the Sacred Heart in your home at sscc.org/enthronement.

The Apostleship of Prayer will show you how to offer your day to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord by the "Daily Offering" prayer at apostlesofprayer.org.

The "Messenger of the Sacred Heart" is a magazine out of Canada we get here at the monastery that has been around for a long time – 110 years! So you might want to subscribe to it at jesuits.ca/Messenger/Default.htm.

One of the greatest triumphs of the glory of the Sacred Heart was Montmartre. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the hill called Montmartre in Paris was the fulfillment of the "National Vow" of France made during the war of 1870. This Basilica was built by the people of France in supplication to the Sacred Heart for their country. See it at sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/us/index.html.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org