Walmart Self-Checkout Shorts Customer $40, Manager Insists It Didn't

If we can all learn anything from the experience of Joe’s wife, it’s this: don’t use self-checkout lanes if you’re planning to get cash back from your debit card. There’s a slim chance that anything will go wrong, but if it does, you have a witness to the transaction in the cashier. In the case of Mrs. Joe, she asked the self-checkout for $40 that she didn’t receive. She ultimately went to the manager on duty, who reviewed the security video and supposedly found no evidence that the self-checkout shorted her $40.

Joe writes:

My wife recently flew to [redacted] to visit her father who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. A few days into her visit, she drove to Walmart to pickup a few items to make dinner for her family and walked up to one of the self checkout lanes (as we normally do…). After scanning all of her items, she requested $40 in cashback from our debit card. The machine spit out her receipt, but no money. She immediately went the customer service person standing by and asked for her $40. The person told her that they couldn’t give her the money, but would go get the manager on duty.

The manager says “We’ll have to review the camera footage to see what happened and then if we can see that you didn’t take the money, we’ll get it for you.” Ok, so basically guilty until proven innocent. So, my wife sat for 45 minutes while the manager and several other employees “reviewed” the video. Finally, the manager came out to say “Ok, the video was inconclusive, we can’t give you the $40.” Of course my wife is a bit disgusted at this point, but won’t take no for an answer. Finally the manager says “Ok, fine, we’ll count the till overnight and it we’re $40 over, we’ll call you and get the money for you. Otherwise, we will not give you $40.”

Fast forward to next day…. no call. My wife calls several times and finally around 4pm the manager says the till was even and they will not be giving her the money that they charged her for. This is absolutely ridiculous that the video that they supposedly have on those machines couldn’t prove that their machine malfunctioned and it just happened to work in their favor.

Needless to say, her trip to see her family was good and really seemed to do wonders for her father’s mood, but Walmart put a dark mark on the rest of the trip.

My wife works in the mortgage industry and I work for the US government, both jobs that require substantial background checks and generally positions that require us both to be trusted with much more important things than $40.

Any idea what we can do about this? I’m absolutely dumbfounded that they just said no and didn’t seem to care at all about the whole situation. I just can’t believe that they would be willing to lose a family of customers (we used to visit at least twice week) over this $40.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Marlin says:

    Contact the bank and tell them the story.

    Also contact wal-mart corp, facebook, twitter, local media, etc… i.e. be the greasy wheel.

  2. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    “My wife works in the mortgage industry and I work for the US government”

    O boy! Snarky comments in 3-2-1…

  3. HomerSimpson says:

    ” I’m absolutely dumbfounded that they just said no and didn’t seem to care at all about the whole situation. I just can’t believe that they would be willing to lose a family of customers (we used to visit at least twice week) over this $40.”

    They don’t care…the manager will come back with “We have millions of people coming through our doors daily so “k…thanks..bye”

  4. cactus jack says:

    Did you mention your important jobs to the manager as proof?

    Really, if the tills were even, there isn’t much you can do.

    • Sneeje says:

      They could prove to me that the tills are even…

      • matlock expressway says:

        I suspect the mananger is one of the lower people on the totem pole when it comes to opening self-checkout machines. I’ve never seen them filled, but wouldn’t they get the same armed-guard treatment as any ATM?

        • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

          I would expect it would be handled the same way they cash a drawer in or out…which is usually just the cashier carrying it around the store.

        • dru_zod says:

          I’ve seen the local grocery store fill theirs. A manager just opened up the machine and filled it. There were no special precautions at all.

      • cactus jack says:

        Unless you count it yourself you probably won’t be satisfied and that’s not going to happen.

        • Sneeje says:

          I can watch you count it though.

          And here’s the problem. If someone was willing to take it to small claims (dubious for $40, but let’s assume), courts take a very dim view when one party in the dispute refuses to take reasonable action to prevent or address harm. The judge might see it differently but I personally think that pulling the till, counting the money, and showing how the math works out is a reasonable action to disprove harm.

          Even outside of court, this is a fundamental reason for the escalation of disputes–it becomes focused on fear of culpability, not resolution of or prevention of harm.

    • MMD says:

      Right, cactus jack. We are powerless, so we should just roll over to our corporate overlords!

  5. braum says:

    I think your wife should have stayed at the store and called the police. Who could also watch the video and come to a possibly different conclusion.

    Just because a machine was involved doesn’t eliminate Wal-Mart’s culpability in the transaction. I would think the burden falls onto them and they would need to give her the money if the camera angle didn’t provide a clear view of her receiving the cash.

    You can always sue them in small claims but I doubt it’s worth the trouble. Especially when you and your wife work in two of the highest paid industries (banks & government) in the USA.

    • cactus jack says:

      I’m guessing the police would simply tell her she needs to take it up with small claims as well. If the video is inconclusive, it’s just that. I find it hard to believe that the police can demand that the store give her $40.

      • braum says:

        They couldn’t demand it but if the officer saw things differently. He could have at least wrote up a complaint and included his own observation and conclusion at the time. That would go a long way in small claims court.

  6. spartan says:

    You probably shouldn’t have mentioned that you work for the US Government and your wife is in the mortgage industry. I think you lost a lot of us right there.

  7. steviewndr7 says:

    1. Are you sure that you were ‘charged’ for the $40? Check your receipt.

    2. Skip the manager and call the store and speak directly with the “Accounting Office” Best time to call is between ten and two. Tell them what happened and give them the info from the receipt. These people are the ones that count down the registers and reconcile shorts/longs.

  8. Coles_Law says:

    Out of curiosity,

    1) Did the receipt show $40 cash back?
    2) Does the bank account reflect $40 extra taken out?

    It’s possible the machine didn’t register the cashback request or something similar.

    • chefboyardee says:

      Best comment on the thread. Without these answers we can’t possibly begin to guess at who was right or wrong. Waiting for a follow-up/update…

    • STXJK says:

      EXACTLY! I was just thinking the same thing. If the bank doesn’t show the $40 withdrawal, then this whole story is dead. If it does, get the bank in on the issue.

    • Costner says:

      This is what I was thinking because there was no mention of the bank balance anywhere in this letter. Did they even check to verify the $40 was deducted from the balance, or was it merely an error?

      Plus, when the letter beings with a comment about how she was visiting her father who just happens to have lymphoma I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit. Her father’s medical status has nothing to do with this issue and it just stinks of someone trying to score sympathy points early on in the letter. Stick to the facts – and give us all the facts. Seems like there would be a very easy way to resolve this, and step one includes checking the bank transactions to see what actually happened on that side of things.

      • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

        You’re missing the point. Her father doesn’t just “have lymphoma”, he was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. Under these circumstances, who can tell what cash was delivered when and what should and shouldn’t balance? If the woman wanted $40 the store should have a heart and give it to her, considering the circumstances.


    • Greggen says:

      Are you serious? The OP, customer service and the manager did not bother to take the simple step to see if the receipt or the bank showed the $40 withdrawal?

      Maybe the OP should check to see if she was at a walmart, a target, or a sears! That would make more sense to check first, dontya think CL?

  9. RandomLetters says:

    I would have asked for the till to be counted right then. If they can spare the people to look at a video for 45 minutes they can spare them for 15 minutes to count that one register.

    • matlock expressway says:

      It wasn’t a regular register. It was a self-checkout. If your average manager were able to open these during business hours (even after a complaint), I’d seriously question their security practices. These things probably hold as much as an ATM.

      • RandomLetters says:

        I would think that the volume of cash on hand at any one time that the manager could get his hands on would be far more than what was in that one register. They might have it in a safe, but someone, probably the manager, does have to be able to get it out to hand it over to the armored car drivers to take it to the bank. And ATMs are only serviceded every few days. That register is going to be opened (to count the till) one or more times per day so it doesn’t have to have nearly the same volume of cash in it.

      • HomerSimpson says:

        Then you’d be wrong because unless the cash till in one of those are separately secured, even the lowly cashier likely has the keys to open it.

      • LizardFoot says:

        I work on POS systems for a major retailer (not Walmart). We can count the till at any given moment and know whether it is over or not. We don’t have to wait until closing to do it.

  10. GingerMom79 says:

    What bothers me about this is that the machine supposedly wasn’t short any money…so does this mean that it gave someone else $40 more than they were supposed to get? Or did the staffers short the drawer when they started it for the day?
    Otherwise, how was the machine short if the OP didn’t get the money?

    • RandomLetters says:

      I honestly believe that the till probably was over and that the manager never even bothered to check back and get the results of the count. Or she/he didn’t want to have to admit that they were wrong the previous day so they just said it was right. But that’s just me being my pessimistic self.

      • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

        Under. It would have to have been under/short for $40 extra to make up the difference.

        • psm321 says:

          Nope, over.

          • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

            You know, I started to reply and realized I had mistakenly thought RandomLetters was proposing that the till was off before the cashback transaction, and after the cashback debacle it happened to be close to balanced. If that were the case, I was trying to say it would have to have been under, because $40 extra (a debit that was recorded in the register’s electronic balance but not actually withdrawn) would be an overage.

      • sendmoney2me says:

        I work for Walmart. the cash office counts the money and puts it in bags which are verified by the CSM and then loaded into each self checkout. at the end of the day they run a report on each machine and bag the money and send it back to the cash office to be counted and verified again. there are cameras above each register and the view is very clear. if you used a credit card for a purchase and got cash back it would be very easy to see you not get the money on the camera. walmart has no reason to cheat a customer out of $40. the very first thing any manager would have done was ask to see the receipt. sorry but I’m just not buying this story

    • Chmeeee says:

      The person counting it knew it was supposed to be $40 high, then magically it became not $40 high.


      It actually spat the money most of the way out, but not all the way, then the next customer got double cash.


      It spat out the money into some void inside the machine where it still sits now.

      • Shadowfire says:

        In the self-checkouts at my store there is a tray on the inside of the machine. Sometimes when bills get jammed, this tray catches them because they can’t make it all the way to the customer. Usually it’s a matter of opening that front door and seeing if anything has fallen into the tray.

  11. KrispyKrink says:

    I’ve been through this before. Call the bank, and you’re done.

  12. hexx says:

    I don’t use self-checkouts out of principal. The cost of the cashier and bagger is already figured in to the product price. So why should I pay the exact same amount to do all the work myself? Give me a discount on self-serve and I’ll use it…

    • cryptique says:

      Discount on self-checkout is a good idea.

      Cashiers are a crapshoot. Many of them are only minimally competent, slow, and couldn’t care less how your groceries are bagged. I go to a cashier for really large orders (entire shopping carts), but I do most of my shopping with a basket, and for those smaller orders it’s the self-checkout every time. Also, I’m an introvert, and given the chance to NOT interact with other people, I take it.

      (And it’s “principle,” not “principal.”)

      • Sneeje says:

        Its pretty easy to avoid the worst perils of poor bagging–make sure that you put things on the conveyor belt in a particular order. Solid, heavy things first and fragile, crushable things last. Group frozen foods as much as possible.

        Won’t solve for complete incompetence, but makes things faster and less risky.

      • Not Given says:

        Grocery store bagging is a crap shoot, but Walmart cashier bagging seems a lot better. Not as good as me doing my own, but not bad.

    • Chmeeee says:

      Where I shop, if you want a human, you’ll have to wait behind 1-2 customers, each with $100+ in groceries. If you are willing to do self checkout, you can usually find an open machine.

      I don’t like waiting.

    • kathygnome says:

      It might be that the demographics of where I live, very heavily elderly who check out very slowly and avoid the machines, but I’d pay extra to use one. They are so convenient. No waiting for one of the pre-dead who waits until they’re presented with the total, then muddles around in their purse for coupons, then gets the new total, then starts looking for their checkbook, won’t let the machine fill it out for them, won’t hand over the check until they’re done recording it. By the time they’re done, I’m through self-checkout, in my car, and halfway home.

      • Galium says:

        “Pre-dead”? Nice, so what do you call invalids or below average intelligence people? Before you go there I am always ready with my card and even slide it through before the cashier is done, and I help bag when there is no bagger. I agree people who wait until the last moment before even opening their wallet are an irritant, but it is not limited to the elderly.

      • Not Given says:

        They might as well record it after they get to their car since the cashiers at Walmart hand the check back in 2 seconds or less.

    • chefboyardee says:

      Simple. Because I can self-checkout my 10 items well before the cashier can deal with 3 people with 10 items. I’m not so lazy that I can’t scan things; my time is more valuable than my precious arms having to lift the items I just carried through the store.

    • Shadowfire says:

      Actually, the cost of cashier and bagger is figured into the product price, but the savings of a certain percentage of customers using the self-checkouts is also factored in.

      • NickRayko says:

        Really? I haven’t noticed any prices going down at stores where self-checkout has been introduced. Self-check is there to cut labor costs/increase profit. We’re not going to enjoy any savings due to its implementation.

  13. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    OK folks this in only one reason to not use self-checkout.

    The most important reason to avoid it is because it puts people out of work. Out of work people aren’t able to contribute to the economy and oddly enough often aren’t able to buy the services or products that you make your living from.

    So, you get the idea, to keep yourself and the economy you depend on chugging along avoid self-checkouts.

    • elangomatt says:

      Yeah because we all really want those awesome minimum wage cashier jobs. /s

      Of course if you get rid of the self checkouts then the people that design, fix and put the self checkouts together would be out of work. Probably pretty good paying jobs too.

      • quail20 says:

        Uh, young people without job experience would love those jobs. Older people who need the healthcare coverage more than the paycheck would love those jobs. A young couple with a full time job and saving for a big purchase would love to have one of those part time jobs to add to their bank roll.

        • chefboyardee says:

          Or, all those people could learn a skill and get a worthwhile job instead of something low-paying and dead-end like this…such as designing, building, or maintaining those self-checkout machines.

          • George4478 says:

            And while they’re learning those skills, the money fairy will deliver cash into their bank accounts each month. Or they can, like so many millions before them, work a low-skill/low-paying job until their schooling is done.

          • dru_zod says:

            So when everyone gets a high-paying “worthwhile” job, I suppose you’ll be okay with having to do grow all your own food (sorry, grocery store went out of business because no one would work there!) and do all the low-paying, dead-end tasks for yourself.

    • Shadowfire says:

      Thanks for reminding us that you need to take a few econ courses.

  14. madrigal says:

    I would have asked that the till be counted right there.

    Call your bank, tell them what happened, and see what they will do.

  15. Harry Greek says:

    You know, it’s times like this, that I realize we need a president that stands up for the abused businesses.

    We need someone who will put scum like the OP away, for good.

    How DARE they attack Walmart?!?! They are abusing the good nature job creators of the United States of ‘Merica!!

  16. cdoc says:

    Reason number 323,549 not to use a debit card for transactions. Honestly, I don’t see why anyone would use a debit card for transactions. The only thing I use a debit card for is an ATM. And even then I try to only use the one at work. There is simply no protection when you use a debit card for transactions.

    When I get my credit card bill in the mail I review it and I decide if any charges I don’t agree with showed up. If there are, I dispute it and the burden is on the company to convince me that I should pay for it. Now the burden is on the customer to convince the company that they should give her her money back. That is a poor negotiating position.

    • Kuri says:

      Because it’s much easier than carrying a wad of cash in your wallet, you don’t have to worry if you brought enough, and if it gets stolen you just have it cancelled before it can be used and have any chargers nullified.

      With straight cash, if you didn’t bring enough then you either don’t get the good or service, or far less of either, and if it gets stolen it’s gone, just gone.

  17. sphantom111 says:

    What I have to say…

    I’d have more sympathy except for the non-essential family and self-important details.
    Would the crux of the problem be any different if you were visiting your local Walmart on any random day after you and your wife got off work digging ditches?

    What I WANT to say…

    If you work for the government and your wife in the mortgage industry then the most likely reason your wife needed the $40 is she forgot to grab toilet paper and needed something to tide her over.

  18. Chairman-Meow says:

    I would have told the Manager to immediately X-out the register. The tape would have shown the 40 dollar difference.

  19. kathygnome says:

    I must admit, I trust a machine more than I trust the OP. The entire view the security tape thing sounds bogus. I would think they’d count the machine first.

  20. jrs45 says:

    Conveniently missing from the story was the verified $40 deducted from her bank account. (And what’s with the lymphona reference? Totally irrelevant attempt at sympathy.)

    Since the till was even, and there was no $40 deducted from the account, she doesn’t get the $40 for free. There is no problem here.

  21. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    It can go the other way. I had a debit transaction fail to go through at Sam’s Club once. I ended up returning the item and I asked the counter clerk to confirm the transaction went through before they issued the cash refund. They didn’t bother, but it was a large enough transaction that a senior manager had to deliver the cash. I asked him. He checked it and insisted everything was fine and handed me the cash (debit transactions are refunded this way).

    It never did clear. Maybe the consumerist editors can connect us and I’ll send $40 your way.

  22. keep the blinders on says:

    “Walmart put a dark mark on the rest of the trip.”

    That’s how I feel every time I go to a Walmart.

  23. RedOryx says:

    As others have said, what does the receipt and bank show regarding the $40?

    Also, this part: “My wife works in the mortgage industry and I work for the US government, both jobs that require substantial background checks and generally positions that require us both to be trusted with much more important things than $40” means absolutely nothing.

    I, too, have worked in industries that required extensive background checks (a prison) and have known co-workers and people in the field to royally eff up, so that has no real bearing.

  24. teamplur says:

    I use the self checkout at Wal-Mart all the time. I only requested cash back once and almost left it behind because it comes out below the scanner at shin level >_<
    another time we checked out and my 3 year old son found $10 in the slot. That was a nice day :)

  25. pansy says:

    get in touch with Linda Baquero on NBC TV News out of NYC….she does a segment that rectifies ALL sorts of these type of indescretions against honest people…and gets immediate responses as well as what is RIGHT for the consumer!!! GOOD LUCK…

  26. hexx says:

    I think it’s great that McDonald’s is being proactive about this. Posting the calorie information is a good thing… However I don’t think having this information on the menu board will change ordering habits. I do think some people will rethink their meal, but most will ignore this information and order their favorites.

    • hexx says:

      Sorry folks, this comment is for a different article. Everytime I login Consumerist likes to take me to a different article than what I’m reading…

      • NickRayko says:

        I enjoy these mis-posted comments as a bit of unexpected surrealism. My thanks to you for making my Consumerist experience just a little bit weird!

  27. gedster314 says:

    Ohh man does that suck. I never use the self check out because of the potential of this situation. I am very interested in a follow up on this story and also would love to know how you should handle a situation like this. To me you would almost have to call the police to take a report so you can file a claim with your bank/credit card. Since the customer lability is usually $50, it’s not worth the effort.

    I don’t believe they counted the till or at least the manager never checked to see if the till was off. I think she was screwed once she left the store.

  28. Ace says:

    I think this was an attempt to get $40 that this woman thought she requested from the machine. The absence of the receipt and transaction records accompanied by the manager not finding any cash discrepancies when the till was counted tells me that the woman screwed something up and went for the cash. When she was told she was wrong, she immediately started pointing fingers instead of checking her own stuff.

    That’s just me and my belief that people are selfish and deceitful. It’s not just corporations that want to screw others for their gain.

  29. Weekilter says:

    What did the bank that issued the debit card say? Did they have a record of the cash withdrawal? If they did then that’s proof. If they don’t have a record of it no cash was debited from the account. If she asked for $40 cash in addition to her purchase there’s something wrong with Wal-Mart’s system and they need to fix it. Firs thing I would have done is to contact my bank and ask if the $40 in addition to the purchase was debited from the account.

    • Dr. Shrinker says:

      All of you asking what the bank said need to work on your reading comprehension. There’s no debate as to whether she requested the cash back; the store manager seems to think she DID get it, or at least that the tape doesn’t clearly show that she doesn’t get it. The fact that the till “balanced” (conveniently) proves that she did get the $, in their eyes.

  30. Kestris says:

    Dispute the withdrawal at your bank. Make Walmart prove to them that you didn’t get them money.

  31. RavenWarrior says:

    “My wife recently flew to [redacted] to visit her father who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.” Why is this relevant information to the story, much less the first thing you say in your complaint? I hate when people who write complaint letters throw little tidbits in there like that trying to garner sympathy from the company to which they’re complaining. Ditto to mentioning what kind of jobs they had, irrelevant to the story.

  32. consumerd says:

    yep with self check out machines and ATM’s count your cash as you leave and videotape with your phone. Then post it to youtube and put Wal-mart ripped me off. that plan typically works.

  33. Minelabd says:

    Had the opposite happen to me. Made a purchase at a self check out and somehow hit cash back by mistake. I found out I hit the button for $20 but left the money in the try. Called walmart. They said if the tape showed the cash, they would refund it weather or not it was turned in. They did.

  34. mcgyver210 says:

    I was on your side until you said you are trust-able because your wife works in the Mortgage industry & you work for the US Government.

  35. Bob A Dobalina says:

    Between what your wife makes throwing people into the street and what you skim off the taxpayers, you can probably cover the $40

  36. shutterbug says:

    I’ve had this happen before at another bank’s ATM. In that case, I had to dispute the transaction with my credit union (even though it was the other bank’s ATM that didn’t dispense the cash). My bank refunded the transaction, no problem.

  37. Broke_Daddy says:

    The first time I got cash back from a WalMart self checkout register, I had trouble just finding the slot where the money came out. It wasn’t near the receipt slot, and actually was under another part of the checkout making it difficult to see. I could understand that it was dispensed but she just didn’t see it. Just conjecture of course.

    • mcgyver210 says:

      That is a good thought & my wife who uses the self checkouts said it is correct that the retailers make it hard to find the money slot.

  38. CrackedLCD says:

    I’ve had similar troubles at Walmart self checkouts and don’t use them anymore because they seem to be unreliable, and the people not very helpful.

    In my case, it ate the entire $40 balance of a Discover gift card. The checkout crashed during the transaction and debited the card the entire amount, but came back online and had no record of the transaction. Discover wouldn’t credit the amount back because they said it was a legitimate purchase, and Walmart was unwilling to credit it back on the spot. They forced me to wait 5 days to see if it would “credit the account”. Despite assurances that it would fix itself, it didn’t and the store manager wound up just giving me $40 in cash.

    I don’t mind using self-checkout at some places, but it soured me on the system Walmart uses.