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Hand scanners ease shopping at supermarkets

"It's so much easier than loading the cart, unloading it, having them scan it and loading it again," Brandes, 41, said recently.

Kiosks holding the handheld computers are located near entrances where customers can scan their loyalty or rewards card. Based on the customer's past purchases, the scanner can display promotions. It keeps a running tally of everything scanned and alerts the shopper to specials with a "cha-ching" as shoppers near the aisle of a product on sale.

Customers place the scanned items in their cart or, as many interviewed seemed to prefer, they can organize their groceries in their own bags in the carts as they shop. They then take the items to a cashier or a self-checkout counter, download the data in the register and pay.

For some shoppers, the time-savings are a major plus.

"The best thing is speed," she said. "(And) I bring my own bags. I like to recycle."