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It seems like anyone shopping at Home Depot Inc. always spends US$25 more than they planned by grabbing last minute items while waiting in line at the register. All that may change in the near future.

It seems like anyone shopping at US retailer Home Depot always spends $US25 more than they planned by grabbing last minute items while waiting in line at the register. All that may change in the near future. Home Depot has joined US several grocery chains in piloting self-service checkouts in nine of its 1,400 stores. Using the self-service stations, customers scan and pay for their items at the kiosk. The technology isn't new—it has been around since the late 1980s—but in the past year there has been an explosion in the number of installations. Kmart and Shaw's Supermarkets have both rolled out installations of FastLane technology from NCR in several of their stores. "These machines don't take sick days; they don't have good days and bad days," says Mike Webster, vice-president of NCR FastLane in Atlanta. Webster says a typical installation of four units and one attendant station is less than $US100,000. He says his customers see payback in terms of managed labor savings in 12 to 18 months. NCR is one of two vendors piloting Home Depot's installation.

"The consumer believes that he is getting out of the store faster," says Webster. That is one selling point of the self-service checkouts. Other benefits include privacy for customers purchasing sensitive or personal items and redeployment of cashiers to help out in other parts of the store.

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