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New Technology May Give Shoppers A Fuss-Free Experience

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DURHAM — The long lines of Christmas past are about to disappear as technology changes the very way shoppers go to the mall.

All the wishing and wanting leads to shopping and more shopping. The Holman family loves it, but shopping has been a pain.

"The long lines. I don't like the long lines and the crowds," says shopper Tanya Holman. "We just came out of the toy store, and it's just frantic, and if they knew what I would like. They ran out of some things," says shopper Courtney Holman. -->

It may take some time, but in the future, technology will make shopping easier and faster. "These checkout lines you wouldn't have to mess with any of that. You just put your things in a bag, walk up, give them your thumbprint and walk out." It sounds too good to be true, but Greg Leman of Durham-based Metagenix says merchants are almost ready for cyber-shopping at the mall.

Customers, armed with hand-held computers, will wisk through their favorite stores.

"You don't have to go through a checkout line. They know who you are, and they have your accounts," he says. "As you walk out, a sensor picks up what you have. Maybe, you give a thumbprint to verify your identity and you're done."

You will not even have to own a computer.

"Instead of a palm pilot showing you everything, maybe you'll have like your grocery store card, frequent buyers card, and you walk into a store and swipe that," he says.

Some grocery stores already make use of that technology: You shop, you swipe, you bag and you go. In retail's future, the stores will be able to tell you whether what you want is in stock, alert you to sales, offer coupons and shipping all on the spot.

"I would love that. That would be the best thing that happened in the world since man went to the moon." says shopper Cornell Holman. "If I can get my husband to come with me, he would enjoy it better. Shorter lines, get home quicker, and have a good time." "I would like something where they would know what I like, have it swipe something and be done with it," Courtney says. -->

"That would be really convenient. If I had something in my hand every time I walked into a store, and they would know exactly what I wanted. That would be convenient," says shopper Steve Holman.

This vision of Christmas future is no pipe dream. Leman predicts we will shop this way all yearround in two to five years.

He also says retail stores must first merge their billing, Web site, catalog and retail computer systems. With the Y2K scare behind them, many retail stores expect to offer this one-stop shopping experience by 2005.

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Yvonne Simons, Reporter
Ken Bodine, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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