For me, shopping for pants is like a doctor's appointment: It's important, can be delayed only for so long and is a relief when it's over.
So I had my doubts when I learned about a body scanner at The Mall at Robinson, Westmoreland Mall and Monroeville Mall that in minutes provides men and women with a list of stores that sell bottoms ideal for their figures. Could this techy wizardry actually ease the pains of pants hunting?
Body scanner recommends best fit, places to buy
A body scanner at the Mall at Robinson helps shoppers determine their best fit while also recommending places to buy the clothing. (Video by Brian Batko; 6/19/2012)
On a recent trip to The Mall at Robinson food court, where the Me-Ality sizing kiosk is located, I tried out what has been dubbed "the fitting room of the future." I filled out a brief form requesting my name, email address, age and gender for research purposes. Then I was instructed to slip off my shoes and any chunky jewelry (metals can interfere with accurate measurement readings) before stepping into the roomy booth.
For about 20 seconds, I stood still as a vertical "scanning wand" rotated around me. The device emits safe, low-power radio waves. Data from about 200,000 points on your body are collected during the process. Moisture detected on the skin helps the readings register, which means a more accurate one can be given to those with more skin exposed, such as by removing a jacket or tucking long hair behind the ears.
Within minutes, three pages were printed of pants and jeans suggestions for me in various cuts, styles, washes and price points at stores such as Aeropostale, Banana Republic, Sears, JC Penney and American Eagle Outfitters. I tried on a recommended pair of low-rise curvy boot cut jeans at Banana Republic and was impressed by the comfort and stylishness.
"It's exciting to see how happy it makes people," said Shema Krinsky, marketing director at The Mall at Robinson. "Personally, I think jeans shopping is like bathing suit shopping. They're all different fits. There's no standard to sizing whatsoever. So this is a great way to cut through all that."
"It is every girl's dream to know when they go into the store that they will be able to find their perfect fit in jeans," said Susan Fancsali, 19, of Pleasant Hills, who found a pair at Express with some pointers from Me-Ality.
Because The Mall at Robinson features so many tenants that sell apparel, Me-Ality seemed like an ideal addition, Ms. Krinsky said. "This was a great fit to direct you to the stores."
As the scanner adds new styles to its database, it will email previous users updates about what other types of pants and jeans may work for them and where to find them. In the future, there are plans to recommend other kinds of clothing.
Me-Ality obtains stores' sizing and style information by partnering with them. Companies pay a fee to participate, but there is no cost for shoppers to be scanned. If people make a purchase based on a Me-Ality recommendation, they can receive a $5 Starbucks gift card if they bring their receipt and list of suggested apparel back to the kiosk.
So far, the response has been strong.
"Traditionally, shoppers are 85, 90 percent women, so naturally it's going to have more women," Ms. Krinsky said. "But the men are really trying it out, too. They're intrigued and interested because a man likes to go in a store, not have to try stuff on. They just want the convenience."
These details also can save online shoppers time and guesswork. Rather than wondering how something will fit, they can use their personalized Me-Ality picks as guides.
The kiosk currently is in a couple of dozen malls across the country and is expected to grow to about 300 by the end of the year.
"You look at it and it doesn't really scream, 'Come try me out,' " Ms. Krinsky said. "But once [people] realize it's free and the benefit that they're going to get, they're all over it."
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com. First Published June 19, 2012 4:00 AM