A Thriftway grocery store in West Seattle is offering shoppers the chance to pay for their shopping with a new system that scans their fingerprints.

The new technology, developed by the privately held Oakland, California-based company Indivos, was unveiled yesterday [Thursday] to a mixed response, however, as consumers weighed up the relative virtues of security and convenience.

Using biometric technology, the system first requires the shopper to place their index finger on a small scanner five times. When the best print is selected, it is then stored in a database with the shopper’s phone number, and the details from their credit card or checking account.

Once enrolment is complete, shoppers access the system at the point of purchase by scanning their fingerprints on a small scanner, typing in their telephone number and their debit/credit card pin number. Some shoppers yesterday thought that this took too long, but by midday, about 50 had enrolled on the system.

Consumers do not have to pay for the service, but Indivos charges merchants for each transaction.

Paul Kapioski, owner of the Thriftway store, told the Seattle Times that this could prove cheaper for him. Currently, about 70% of the 20,000 sales transactions made at the store every week are paid with cards, costly him an average of US$1.10 a time. It costs stores about 54 cents meanwhile every time shoppers use checks.

Indivos president Phil Gioia said: “In the next two to three years, I think it will be in every store, but that will be generated by consumer demand.”