Walmart Testing App That Allows Customers To Scan As They Shop Then Pay Quickly At Self Checkout

What’s the worst part about shopping? Well, besides not finding what you want on the shelf or having to pay more than you want to, many people would answer that long lines at the checkout are the bane of any retail experience. Walmart is trying to carve into those wait times with a new iPhone app it’s testing that would allow customers to scan their items in the aisles as they shop, and then simply pay at a self-checkout counter when they’re done.

The new way to shop is called “Scan & Go,” and is currently in the testing phase. Employees with iPhones have been trying the system out at the store’s supercenter near its company headquarters in Arkansas, reports Reuters.

The idea is that the faster customers can move through their shopping experience, the happier they’ll be and the store can also reduce costs. Self-checkout kiosks mean a cashier doesn’t have to be tied down or have to scan items one at a time and bag them. And not having so many cashiers to pay could save Walmart tons of money.

“We’re continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience in our stores,” said Walmart spokesman David Tovar.

Here’s how it would work, if the app moves beyond the testing phase and into the real life shopping experience: Shoppers scan products with their phone and put them into bags as they browse the store, and then the information is transmitted to the self-checkout system. Once you’ve arrived at the kiosk, the app lets it know how much you’ve scanned and you simply pay there.

There would likely have to be a way for a customer to un-scan their item if they decided not to buy it after all, and some way for employees to check a shoppers bagged items against what they paid for.

So far the test seems limited to only one store, but Walmart has reportedly reached out to employees to ask them to spread the search for participants to friends and family.

Exclusive: Walmart tests iPhone app checkout feature [Reuters]

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  1. deathbecomesme says:

    So who’s going to be double checking that customer’s don’t “forget” to scan a few times? I can’t wait for them to start using RFID tags for shopping/paying.

    • deathbecomesme says:

      “forget to scan a few *items”

    • sufreak says:

      I think RFID would be a nice use of technology that would speed things up. Of course, once people roll up to the register with everything wrapped in tin foil, things will get interesting

    • sir_eccles says:

      This has been done in Europe for years. Not with an app but with a little hand scanner. When you go to pay it selects you at random to have your cart rescanned.

      • jeepguy57 says:

        Yup, our grocery store has this functionality (both in-store handheld units or the user can use their own iPhone). In the year that we’ve been using this, my wife and I have each been selected once for a random audit. They scanned a dozen items from the cart, confirmed we were ok to proceed and then we were on our way.

      • DoctorWhiteface says:

        Super Stop & Shop here in the ‘States has had these scanners for customers to use for a few years. It does save time in the check-out lane, and you can check the item’s pricing to see if it’s as it’s supposed to be.
        It’s really a fun experience (NOT) getting the packed bags in your cart rescanned. Especially when it happens every third week as it did for me for the past 7 months.
        BTW, I no longer shop there.

    • Daggertrout says:

      Presumably it would make you weigh your items at the self checkout?

      • ChuckECheese says:

        I remember some stores (where?) back in the 80′s, early 90′s, would have you weigh your produce in the produce dept., where the scale would print out a UPC tag with the item, weight and price. You could scan that. Or maybe there’s a simpler idea.

    • Costner says:

      I would guess there are fail safes involved including the current system of weight to act as secondary means to ensure nobody is slipping things through.

      No system is perfect, but you can often have one employee monitor four self-checkouts, thereby reducing payroll costs by at least 75%.

      The big problem I have with these types of systems is that they always include a goal to eliminate jobs. So in the name of saving money they cut workers, which in turn have less money to spend… it is cyclical. Outsourcing, job elimination, automation… it all adds up to fewer jobs and less money for the working class. People wonder why our economy struggles, and I’d say this is becoming a significant factor.

      • redskull says:

        Too true.

        Plus, once these companies cut positions in order to save on payroll, it seems like they never manage to pass those savings along to the consumer through lower prices…

      • Cerne says:

        Wow. Just wow. I had no idea that Luddism was still a thing. We should create jobs by destroying automated looms and threshing machines and return the working class to the glory days of the 18th century.

        Automation makes a workforce more productive and richer.

        • Costner says:

          It is a far cry from Luddism.

          There are times automation is a good thing, but there are times when it is done to eliminate workers and those jobs aren’t coming back. You use a machine to replace ten workers, and you hire one technician to maintain the machine… that is a loss of jobs. Yes in theory it might help reduce costs which then are passed on to the consumer and the savings find their way into a better lifestyle for workers, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes companies automate and keep costs the same – in other cases the payback period of the equipment is over 20 or 30 years and thus there are no cost savings because by the time the equipment is paid for it is due for replacement.

          In some cases, it boils down to a company just not wanting to deal with the hassles of employees. Machines don’t complain about overtime, machines don’t need to take a day off because of the flu and they don’t sue if they get injured at work. I understand this – but all things being equal if a company replaces humans with machines it isn’t always a good thing and it doesn’t always make a workforce “richer”. In fact it can have the opposite effect.

          Now lets talk about outsourcing. I know of a company that recently outsourced a call center to the Philippines. I spoke to a high level manager that analyzed the costs and he found it to be a wash when compared to a call center in the Midwest. When planning it they felt they could save several dollars an hour per employee, but what they failed to realize is the high costs for training skilled labor, the high costs of telecommunications, and the reputational harm from people calling in and finding out the person on the other end isn’t from the US which forces them to call back another time if they are having a difficulty understanding the first agent. When you look at some of the hidden costs it isn’t saving them a dime, yet they eliminated 50 US jobs and replaced them with 50 jobs overseas.

          Yet what the fail to realize is that nobody from the Philippines will be purchasing their products or services because they don’t do business there. Nobody from the Philippines will be supporting the businesses in the US – in those cities and towns where this company does business. So indirectly, they are funneling money to another nation which will never come back. (Yes it may come back when those from the Phillipines buy US products and services, but it is a much larger cycle with minimized impact).

          Does this help their bottom line? Not really. In fact in the long term, it can actually harm them. But somebody along the way felt they would be able to save a few bucks and they ran with it before they understood all of the impacts. People are short sighted – and when it comes to jobs it is a very complex issue. Same is true with some automation. In many cases it makes sense, in other cases it doesn’t

          • Cerne says:

            fighting against automation is not “a far cry from Luddism.” It is Luddism. Automation doesn’t destroy jobs, it frees up labour for more productive uses.

    • Cerne says:

      We’re supposed to have RFID equipped groceries up and running by now. Load up your cart/bag/jacket and just stroll out the the door and be charged. The future needs to hurry the fuck up.

  2. missy070203 says:

    Shoplifters are going to love this….

    • wmibizownr says:

      I rolled into the self scan check out lane at a major grocer last night and the touch screen was inoperable and the help light was flashing red.

      customer service had to reset the system, the “customer” had scanned $400 in items, bagged them and rolled out the door without paying. So yeah, self scan a couple, bag a lot more and roll on out the door. Greeters can’t stop them from leaving – WIN for the “customer” and we pay more in the end.

  3. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    They’ve already gotten rid of the self-scan checkouts at two Wal marts near me–this isn’t going to happen.

    • NotEd says:

      They just added one a few months back to the second closest near me. I almost wish they took them out or licensed people to use self checkout since I’ve tried to use it twice and each time ended up behind someone incapable of using it, requiring Walmart employee intervention anyways.
      I don’t go to that Walmart much anymore.

  4. RedOryx says:

    Maybe this will save me from being behind the people who put a shit ton of crap in the cart, then after it all gets scanned realized they don’t have enough money and start to ask the cashier to unring certain items.

    • Hoss says:

      Those would be the ones who never heard of an iphone

      • RedOryx says:

        Possibly. And it’s not like I shop at Walmart that often, but when I do, I do miss the self checkout kiosks.

      • Costner says:

        I disagree. Just a few weeks ago I heard a woman complain about how she had no money and was broke, and three days later she had a new iPhone. In fact, many of the people who I know who have no money to speak of are the very same people who have iPhones.

        People would rather miss a car payment or eat Ramen Noodles for a month than not have their precious iPhones… it is all about priorities.

    • jeepguy57 says:

      At our grocery store, the system gives you a total as you shop. Of course, I am sure some people don’t look at it until checkout.

  5. Marlin says:

    I thought they got fir of all the self checkouts? The wal-mart self checkouts were awful. They had them set so sensitive to keep shoplifters at bay just about every item had to be checked by an employee to go through.

    I can see this being a big waste as well.

    • George4478 says:

      The nearby Kroger had to do a lot of tinkering to get theirs to work right (although getting fir off them was not one of the problems).

      They finally have the sensitivity adjusted where I can ring up a dozen items without needing an employee’s assistance. It was horrible when they were first installed. Now they are very usable.

  6. eccsame says:

    Looks like Wal*Mart got all of that guys letters where he wrote “I want to be a checkout clerk!”

    • Not Given says:

      I usually just use the self checkouts, when I do, because they have lines at the regular checkouts 3 or 4 people deep, half or more with full carts. Half the self checkouts are free most of the time, no lines.

  7. Quirk Sugarplum says:

    This could hurt Walmart if the app displays a running $ total. I imagine a sizeable % of Walmart’s revenue comes from people who don’t really pay attention to how much they’re spending as they go. Besides, giving customers more time to think about what they’re doing just isn’t the American way.

    • vliam says:

      You’re not the only one to notice this obvious flaw in the plan.

      That was my thoughts exactly. The last thing that they want is a well informed shopper.

  8. parliboy says:

    You want me to be able to pay quickly? How about having of the “20 items or less” lanes manned. I had to shop there last night, and I wondered if the reason that the lanes were closed was because the customers would have trouble counting that high.

  9. Sarek says:

    My Wal-Mart never had self-checkout lanes, but sorely needs them. Or needs to hire twice as many cashiers as they currently employ. The lines are always long. Their concept of “express” is 20 items, . so if you just buy a couple of items, you get the shaft.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I’ve noticed since WM has returned to its lower prices policy (prices at WM had got as high as any other place in Phoenix a couple years ago, but have now come back down), they are hiring only half the number of cashiers they used to. Even on busy weekend afternoons and evenings, there are only 8 or 9 lanes open.

  10. jeepguy57 says:

    So instead of a receipt, do you show the employee your iPhone before you walk out?

  11. lifeispunny says:

    They tried this at the local Kroger (I think) years ago. It actually took me 3 times as long to scan and bag as I shopped, then to grab and dump and stand in line at the end.
    RFID has always sounded like a better solution for me – until you get creeped out that anyone can walk by your house and know what products you have in there, if they have the right scanner.

    • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

      First, they should have dedicated lanes for those who pre-scan. Why would you have to “dump”…you mean empty the bags you just filled? That’s crazy. Our Giant doesn’t do that.

      I think a scanner strong enough to be used while walking by your house, if it’s even possible, would fry the user. RFID generally only operates over a few inches, and from the white papers I’ve read, a long loop antenna could theoretically increase it to a few feet, but still probably in the single digits.

      You could wrap your house in tin foil, if you’re that concerned.

  12. longfeltwant says:

    Math time.

    If Walmart “spends around $12 million on cashier pay every second across all its stores”, then:

    $12M per second
    = $720M per minute
    =$43B per hour
    =~$1T per day
    =~$350 trillion each year, just on cashiers

    Walmart’s *gross* sales is approximately $500B per year (my estimate up from $400 in 2008)

    http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/1636-Chart-of-the-Week-Walmart-s-Revenue-Dwarfs-Google-Amazon-eBay

    Obviously, the $12M per second number is bullocks. What could be wrong with it?

    * They might mean $12M per minute, hour, or day
    * They might only be counting the peak of the whole year, like $12M at 3:12PM on the day after Thanksgiving (still hard to believe)
    * It might have come out of someone’s butthole

    As they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Wherever this number came from, nobody should accept it as it has been plainly stated. I looked, and that number is reported all around the internet uncritically. Come on, people, twelve million PER SECOND? That number wouldn’t even make sense for the cost of the entire operation of all Walmart stores in the whole world. $350 trillion is bigger than the world economy by several times.

    The original article contains this error, so it is not the fault of the Consumerist, although I suggest they should put a disclaimer when reporting such a nonsensical figure.

  13. RobinB says:

    We also have it at a supermarket, and the random “audits” happen way too often and are really annoying.

  14. SoCalGNX says:

    If this works as well as their self checkout service, fugagaboutit.

  15. BlueTomato says:

    If it’s anything like my local WM, the kiosks will be broken and out of order 90% of the time, resulting in even more frustration and time-eating idiocy. The U-scan checkouts don’t work over half the time at my WM. Ever.

  16. eturowski says:

    Great idea, in theory… unless the supermarket decides to also allow the “scan as you shop” lane to double as the “self-checkout” lane. Any time you saved by diligently scanning and bagging your own items in the store is nullified by the idiot in front of you, pushing a cart full of fifty-some items, and half of them inevitably pieces of produce for which said idiot has forgotten to find the PLU codes. OH… and the idiot has COUPONS.

    I’m looking at YOU, Stop & Shop.

  17. NotEd says:

    I truely wish that for every iPhone app to savea store money that came out I could get a little subsidy to use to buy an iPhone. I’d even sign a contract with the store saying I’d use their app!
    Either that or come out with the app for Android and Windows Phones as well.
    Frankly it seems reasonable to me that Apple could get in on this and get me to switch to iPhone from my already obsolete HTC Android phone at a reasonable price and we could all be winners! Except HTC, I mean.

  18. AllFriedBreakfast says:

    Last year, when we still had a Sam’s Club membership, as the checkout lines got ridiculous, a second cashier would scan everything in your cart with her Telxon, then scan your membership card. When it was your turn, you just presented the card to the cashier, paid for your crap, snagged your receipt, played nice with the door checker, and you were outta there. Didn’t have to load and unload the conveyor, and I could bag and box while I waited in line, and leave ‘em that way. I loved it.

    Wish they’d do that at Mal-Wart !

  19. Overheal says:

    I’m surprised they don’t just you know, hire more cashiers, for the 30-50 cash registers they own in each store, when there is a clear and present demand for more cashiers.

    No, let’s just invent an iPhone app. Fuck employing people.

  20. Press1forDialTone says:

    There has to be a one-to-one correspondence between what is scanned and what’s in
    the bag. DUH Walmart! For this to work and not be a total scam on WalMart be every
    customer with a brain, they will have to RFID -every single item- or make you rescan
    everything at the kiosk which is defeating the purpose. Wake me up with this goes
    epic fail, no wait , don’t.

  21. BorkBorkBork says:

    So us Android users have to stand in line behind the old lady arguing with the cashier about expired coupons?

    No fair! :D

  22. mdcastle says:

    I absolutely loath self-checkouts, but the scan as you go sounds intersting. How about loaner scanners for those of us that don’t pay a gazillions dollars for smartphones. As far as auditing, why not weigh carts at random, the weight should be within 10% or so of the items scanned.

    I do like the idea of RFID tags also, but I’m not sure how it would work with produce.

  23. Selunesmom says:

    Hello fraud! So very easy to scan a cheap item instead of the pricy one that you got, especially at rush hour with minimal cashier over sight. This is just asking for trouble.