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Body Scanning for Shopping — Will You Do It?

With all the information being collected about us everywhere we go, will you add your full body scan to the list, for consumer purposes?

Sometime this year, you might walk into a mall and be offered a complete body scan — with your clothes on — not for medical reasons, such as bone density, but in order to find the best-fitting pair of jeans.

The scenario might go something like this. You walk into yet another store with your blood sugar draining and feeling more depressed about not finding what you want, wishing you hadn’t consumed half that pie left over in the fridge on Wednesday night and all those margaritas on Saturday. The bulge around the middle won’t budge no matter how much you fantasize about exercising more and eating less.

No problem! The cheerful clerk, working on commission, has everything you need. Just follow her to meet the new “Woman’s Best Friend."

A company called MyBestFit now offers a cylindrical space that a buyer steps into for a 10-second scan, and, hey presto, all your measurements — I mean the real ones, not the ones you tell your girlfriends or latest guy — are now “in the system.” You even get a bar code that describes just you.

Now, armed with information that fits just you, you can go to participating stores in the mall and find exactly the jeans that accommodate that bulge or maybe an extra-long waist, rather large thighs or unfashionably short legs.

Done! You’ve saved so much time, you have half an hour for a milkshake and fries with your friends!

But seriously, does this scanning business bother anyone?

I mean, I’m just curious if there’s any smidgeon of ourselves we can keep, you know, to ourselves?

Some doctor’s offices now ask for patients to scan their driver’s license into “the system” because, I’m told, people are trying to use other people’s insurance. Thumbs or fingers are used by some other health practitioners and gyms to let “the system” know you’ve arrived and the technology for microchipping humans is already available.

This sort of personal information, combined with the GPS in our cell phones and the way we seem to be fascinated with spreading our most intimate personal information and whereabouts all over social networking sites ... well, let’s just say we’re living in a new world baby.

I can remember my mother telling me to close the blinds before I got changed in my room. But, this, well! This is a whole new level of information gathering.

It’s probably not long before everyone will be scanned. Think of the applications for Father’s Day, for example.

“Dad, do you mean you haven’t been scanned yet! OMG, you are so far behind the times, it’s like, humiliating. I just need you to give me your bar code so I can spend 10 minutes finding you something that fits you perfectly — hopefully it’ll tell me the stuff you like too because, well, sorry we haven’t had time to talk lately — and then I can spend the rest of the time at the mall with my friends. Duh!”

The first of the MyBestFit scanners is operating in a mall outside Philadelphia. At least 13 more are planned for stores in California and along the East Coast by the end of the year.

The company states that the scanner, similar to those used at airport checkpoints, uses low-frequency radio waves that aren’t harmful.

"It's the equivalent of 1/1000th of a cell phone call," Elizabeth Thomas, director of marketing, told Ramona Patch by email. "The waves bounce off the skin so no information is collected about internal organs."

She said no one under 13 is being scanned yet because MyBestFit doesn't match those sizes and styles yet.

"Only outside body measurement data is collected," Thomas stated. "No body image is created."

Stores pay a fee to be included in the resulting brands, styles and sizes recommended. Shoppers use their bar code to create a Shopper's Guide. Thomas said the report does not give customers their measurements; they're just told if they are a size 6, 8, 9 or 12 within a particular brand.

Consumers, so far, are praising the accuracy of the results and the ease of getting scanned, according to news reports.

Thomas says no one has access to an individual’s information. The company is pondering privacy issues related to whether to provide family members with the information, for example, but, she says, "Maybe in the future."

"However," she says, "the aggregate data can by compiled and used to determine 'mean' averages of the population. Any company that makes a product that is meant to fit a body can use this aggregate data to help them create better fitting products."

So, moms, I’m interested to know, will you be one of the first to get scanned because of the potential for saving shopping time? Will you be OK with your family members being scanned?

Or are you wondering where all this is leading and what will happen if all the information is eventually put together — if there comes a time when the suggestion “let me look in your eyes” is not a romantic one but a request for the personal information scanned into your irises or something?

What’s that old saying?

Oh, yes.

“Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts.”

See you at the mall.

Mary Lou June 17, 2011 at 09:15 PM
They've had machines that measure feet for a long time. Nobody seems to complain about that. Several online clothing companies have virtual "models" where you put in your measurements, body type, etc. and it calculates your sizes and even lets you virtually "try on" the clothes. As long as it's strictly voluntary, if there's a machine to calculate my clothing sizes so I don't have to try everything on and can order clothes online without guessing, sounds good to me. While it's at it, I'd like it to be able to design sewing patterns for clothes in my exact fit so I don't have to alter and guess if it will fit before cutting it out.

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