Thefts at WALMART self-checkouts are costing the company millions – meaning customers could soon face massive price hikes and store closures.
They’re advertised as a quick and easy way to shop, but self-checkouts can increase theft rates when they actually take longer than cashiers.
This week, Walmart announced that thefts at its stores have reached an all-time high, with many people blaming self-checkouts for the spike.
But despite their problems, the machines are gaining popularity with the big name brand supermarkets.
In 2018, just 18 percent of all grocery purchases were made at self-checkouts, but that share has risen to 30 percent over the past year.
It is estimated that Walmart loses up to $3 billion annually to shoplifting, according to Reuters.
And amid the skyrocketing number of thefts, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has warned he could be forced to close stores or hike prices.
He told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday that unless the issue is “fixed,” “prices will be higher and our stores will close.”
“Theft is a problem,” he continued. “It’s higher than in the past.”
Walmart has closed 160 stores in 27 states over the past six years, but McMillon hasn’t shared any plans to close specific locations.
And while many believe that one of the benefits of self-checkout is that it’s faster for customers and reduces labor requirements, the opposite may be true.
Christopher Andrews, a sociologist and author of The Overworked Consumer: Self-Checkouts, Supermarkets, and the Do-It-Yourself Economy, says the system “doesn’t work well for anyone.”
He continued, “Everyone feels like they need to have it. Companies think, ‘If we can just get more people on it, maybe we can start reducing some overhead.'”
And research shows that the system isn’t actually any faster than using a cashier.
“It just feels that way because you’re spending your time doing chores instead of noticing every second is passing,” claims Andrews.
But while the machines often fail in their purpose of making shopping easier, they make it harder for the employees they’re supposed to be helping.
Walmart employee James says self-checkout is the worst part of his job at a large Walmart supermarket in Washington.
The 25-year-old told LocalToday: “You’re confined to this small place and you’re standing in one place for up to eight hours a day, which just kills your feet.
“And dealing with so many people just drains your mental battery.”
While monitoring the machines for thieving customers, the Walmart employee added that shoppers often take their frustrations out on him, too.
James even recalled one person telling him, “This should be your damn job, not mine.”
He said self-checkouts could motivate savvy shoppers to attempt to steal from the store, despite Walmart’s notoriously strict anti-theft policies.
James sees a variety of tactics that humans use to try to trick the machines, including cheating the weight sensors and changing barcodes.
Self Checkout is where most thefts happen
Anonymous Walmart employee, insider
Walmart has a notoriously aggressive shoplifting policy and has installed AI-powered cameras for self-checkout areas with a “missed scan detection” feature.
Some have accused the store of being “overzealous”.
Criminal defense attorney Ralph Manginello warned, “If you’re caught shoplifting at Walmart in Texas, you face larceny charges.”
But in its attempts to crack down on theft, Walmart is making the in-store shopping experience far worse for its customers, says Andrews.
“It turns what should be a leisurely shopping activity into an airport-style quasi-TSA security checkpoint,” he said.
The spate of shoplifting across America was felt by all major brands, prompting many to implement extra safety measures for the holiday season.
This includes steel cables and Plexiglas barriers, additional security forces or additional cameras in the workshops.
Other measures include mobile surveillance units with 24-hour live video recordings, flashing lights and loudspeakers in store parking lots.
Just last month, the chief financial officer of Walmart’s biggest competitor, Target, revealed that shoplifting at its stores rose more than 50 percent year-over-year.
Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive officer, said, “Along with other retailers, we have seen a significant increase in theft and organized retail crime across our business.”
The crisis resulted in more than $400 million in losses for the company that year alone.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/us-news/6941503/walmart-self-checkout-thefts-failed-customers-cost-money/ How Walmart Self-Checkout “Abandoned Customers and Cost Them Money” as Theft Hits All-Time High