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NEWS | Feb. 22, 2007

Lackland Commissary test site for new registers

By April Blumer 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

The 73,000 monthly customers at the Lackland Commissary will now be able to make a speedier exit thanks to the new registers installed earlier this month.

IBM representatives spent nearly six hours replacing 22 existing registers with 27 state-of-the-art registers, including 12 self-checkout kiosks.

"Eight of the self-check registers have a six-bag carousel so customers can sort their groceries after scanning their items," said the store director, Mike Mena. "Those registers will be able to hold a medium-size order."

The remaining four self-check lanes house three-bag carousels and are more appropriate for smaller orders.

According to Mr. Mena, the new registers are much faster than the National Cash Register machines originally installed in the mid-1990s.

"They scan faster. They process faster. This in turn means the (lanes with cashiers) will go faster as well," he said.

The commissary's geographic location, high sales volume and existing acceptance of self-check kiosks gave the superstore the credentials the Defense Commissary Agency was looking for as they considered which five commissaries would serve as operational test and evaluation stores, according to Tony Collazo.

Mr. Collazo, the Customer Advance Resale Transaction System, or CARTS, operations support manager in Fort Lee, Va., said that not only the volume of customers served, but the expansive back-of-the-house operations at the Lackland Commissary would provide both the software and hardware system the thorough testing being sought during the three-month test cycle.

And the customers are testing the system, according to Mr. Mena.

Master Sgt. Patrick James, 345th Training Squadron, is a regular user of self-check kiosks and said the commissary's equipment was on par with other kiosks in the civilian stores.

"It can get a little confusing because there are some extra steps, but you get used to it," he said.

Those extra steps include scanning your military ID card to ensure you have commissary privileges and answering questions on the touchscreen prior to paying, such as payment method and coupon use.

"I like the convenience of the (self-check) lanes," Staff Sgt. Peter Ranjo, 37th Security Forces Squadron, said while waiting for a self-check register during the busy lunch break. "But since there is no limit on the number of items in your cart when checking out, it's making my wait longer today. I stood in line for 20 minutes to buy one thing."

In response to Sergeant Ranjo's concern, Mr. Mena said two of the self-help lanes will be turned into express lanes for customers purchasing 10 items or less.

The testing cycle is scheduled to conclude in April. After evaluating reports from the five test stores in Fort Lewis, Wash., McClellan, Calif., Fort Lee, Sugar Grove, W. Va., and Lackland, Mr. Collazo said DeCA will start looking at whether to launch the IBM products worldwide.

Even if test results come back incompatible for worldwide use, Mr. Collazo assures patrons at the five test sites that they will not lose their new machines.