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Thursday, December 29, 2005, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

EasyPay a \"big success\" at Apple retail stores

After running a pilot program at its retail stores this past holiday shopping season, Apple Computer has deemed its EasyPay checkout systems a "big success" and plans to further integrate the devices into its retail experience, according to an online report.

The iPod maker began deploying the wireless, paperless credit card scanners at its retail stores earlier this year as part of its iPod Express checkout experience. Apple Geniuses equipped with an EasyPay system can process purchases from customers anywhere on the showroom floor — effectively bringing the checkout counter to the customer rather than the other way around.

EasyPay is a paperless process, where customers provide a credit card and an email address to an Apple store Genius or employee when checking out. The customer's card is swiped through a scanner — attached to a Symbol Technologies PPT8800 wireless handheld device (photo) — and an email receipt is dispatched and delivered "within an hour."

Despite an assortment of glitches, EasyPay has worked well for Apple says BuisnessWeek's Peter Burrows, who in a blog posting this week cited an unnamed "source at Apple" who says the company will continue to use the systems in the new year.

"Steve Jobs believes that many people who are comfortable buying on-line — and that's a rapidly growing percentage of the total — will not only accept but will actually prefer getting their receipts electronically," Burrows wrote. "Also, the wireless, paperless checkout gives Apple an opportunity to improve in-store service, as well."

Still, the EasyPay systems are far from perfect and are in need of some tweaks, according to a detailed report recently published at the ifoAppleStore Web site.

"The Symbol portable computers proved to be glitchy, although lots of customers weren’t paying with credit cards. Swiping credit or ATM cards sometimes often took several attempts, and re-booting the devices was not uncommon, further slowing the check-out process," wrote Gary Allen, the Web site's publisher. "Staffers also had to take care when entering the customer’s e-mail address for the receipt– one typo and the e-mail would bounce."

"Perhaps the most serious glitch was procedural–using e-mail to generate a receipt for the ordinary customer when checking them out with a portable device," Allen added. In some cases, customers were reluctant to give out their e-mail addresses or their Internet Service Providers were blocking email from Apple so no receipt could be delivered.

Apple currently operates 135 retail locations worldwide, including international locations in the U.K., Canada and Japan.