Checkout of the Future

Today I was in the Apple Store in Westfield Valley Fair Mall. For some reason, there was a huge hold-up at the checkout. There were 3 checkout stations and all of them were occupied by people just standing there doing…I don’t know what. But sure as hell they weren’t leaving and the line to buy stuff was growing. And yours truly was last in line.
I was slowly getting pissed that all of the checkout stations were occupied by people standing there trying to accomplish god knows what and I wanted to pay for my thing and get the hell out.
A few minutes later, a bunch of the Apple Stores sales folks moved up with their little handheld checkout devices and saved the day. They checked all of us in line out within seconds and we were on our way.
I believe last Christmas, they introduced these little PDA checkout devices. Fearing a run for iPod Nanos and Videos for Christmas presents, they tried these devices out in hopes of solving bottlenecks at the main checkouts. Separate iPod only stations were setup to the side, and these devices could swipe your credit card, check it, you would sign on the touchscreen of the device, and then the receipt would be emailed to you. In the blink of an eye, you could jump past the regular checkout stations and get an iPod instantly!
I am glad they kept these devices. For those of us who are connected, they are awesome. No more slips of paper to lose (the receipts); they are emailed to me and I can file them as needed. And they are fast.
Just think if other retailers could build such integration with the Web while improving the speed of rushing people through checkout. I am reminded of going to Target who, despite having an incredible number of staggered, space-saving checkouts, has clearly the slowest checkout process I have ever seen. It is really painful. Target could learn a thing or two from the Apple Store for sure.