Walmart won’t charge $98 a year for self checkout, it’s just preferential treatment

We’ve heard about how frustrating consumers find self checkout machines, particularly when faced with long lines, confusing interfaces and glitching devices. Social media posts from Walmart customers fed up with the self checkout process often get mainstream press coverage. Many have been pointing out that Walmart+ members, who pay $98 a year, sometimes get dedicated self checkout machines. This may be partially due to theft at self checkouts, which has led retailers, including Target, to limit access. Walmart has finally responded to the complaints by saying it isn’t true that they’re charging $98 to use self checkouts and that it’s up to each Walmart whether to designate some for Walmart+ members.

A Walmart spokesperson said that while self-checkout lanes may at times be designated to customers who have signed up for its paid membership scheme, they are not exclusively reserved for these paying members, as suggested by social media posts.

A Facebook video, opens new tab says, in part, “Walmart is charging $98 to people to use self-checkout.”

A spokesperson for Walmart said whether a store decides to limit access to its self-checkout stations for Walmart’s members is a “localized decision” that a store manager would make depending on customer traffic.

The $98 membership program mentioned in the video refers to Walmart+, opens new tab, a membership customers can choose to subscribe to that costs $98 per year.

On its website, opens new tab, Walmart does not list the exclusive use of self-checkout lanes for Walmart+ members, but members do have access to the “mobile scan & go, opens new tab” feature. It allows subscribers to scan their items using the Walmart app on their smartphone and pay at a self-checkout kiosk.

[From Reuters]

How is Walmart’s response any different from what people are claiming? The Walmart spokesperson is saying that they do limit access to self checkouts, but that it’s not permanent and is based on demand. As I mentioned in my last story about this, I tend to avoid the busy local stores that have self checkout machines. When the stores aren’t crowded they’re not bad but it’s often a negative experience for me. I have Walmart+ so I can do grocery pickups and get delivery, but I haven’t set foot in a Walmart in months. Even with the app, it’s super frustrating to find items and deal with the lines. Maybe this is by design though.

Last month, Walmart did a test of self checkout “theft prevention” by using RFID tags. These are readable tags on all items in the store. The tags would both help people check out quicker without having to scan items and prevent stealing by being able to verify if everything is paid for. This sounds like a start, but it also seems like a way to make people super wary of the checkout process. Remember that SNL skit about Black people at the Amazon Go store?

Photos via Instagram and Youtube screenshots/NBC

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11 Responses to “Walmart won’t charge $98 a year for self checkout, it’s just preferential treatment”

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  1. ariel says:

    I actually love self-check out. I know exactly what i want to put together in each bag. Also there was a big corral of them at my walmart grocery store. So it went fairly quickly, even if there was a wait.

    They recently closed almost all the self- check outs- except the ones for members or whatever that is.

    But they have not compensated with enough cashiers.

    So even when i go at 7am on Saturday, i am usually in line behind several people. It is maddening.

  2. Michelle says:

    You know Walmart is one of the world’s most nefarious companies, right?

    • Colleen says:

      Which is why it is so unfortunate that they have pushed out their competition in many many places – giving people no choice but to shop there. You know that, right?

  3. Kirsten says:

    Our Target recently put up a giant sign limiting self-checkout to 10 items or fewer but seem to have hired or re-assigned no cashiers. At most there’s one actual cashier and oftentimes none. I’m fine with the change, but only if you have the labor to support it.

    • Indica says:

      The one I go to has done the same thing (a sign) but on the plus side, they are actually staffing registers. I was worried at first but I still vroom through.

      Walmart though… Skipping that. I refuse to pay for the pleasure of paying. There isn’t one close to me anyway.

  4. tealily says:

    I hate when companies try to take out their failing cost-cutting measures on their customer base/source of revenue instead of out of their padded profit margin. Okay, self checkouts aren’t working? Go back to cashiers, don’t charge customers to use self-check. Airlines charging for checked bags causing a glut of large carry-ons? Go back to including a checked bag in the ticket price, don’t further limit the size of carry-ons. I will just stop using your services. See how your profits are doing then.

  5. Nanea says:

    “Walmart did a test of self checkout “theft prevention” by using RFID tags.”

    What a way to create more hazardous waste and unnecessarily complicate or even prevent the recycling of packaging materials. RFID tags are often made of silicone, copper or aluminium wires, PET, paper, PVC. Stuck to e.g. a PET bottle or a cardboard box, these things can no longer be recycled because they’re “contaminated” with the tag. And even if there are only a few of these tags mixed into regularly sorted waste bins that are then tossed into a huge container, the whole batch must be thrown out.

    While some people will remember to take those tags off before recycling, most won’t bother.

    Well done, Walmart.

    Remember there is no Planet B.

  6. Kitten says:

    Well I got hammered here last time I talked about an item maybe not getting scanned at the self-checkout (UPDATE: I STILL don’t feel bad about it) but the Home Depot near me switched back to cashiers only and no self-checkout due to monetary loss and all I can say is that the lines have never been slower. Turns out paying for items takes a lot longer.

    • Hollz says:

      This is interesting!
      I worked at Home Depot 2015-2019 and we had self checkouts (they predated me, I think they were installed in 2010?)

      I can’t imagine them switching back to cashiers – they had trouble hiring enough as it was! (And honestly, as retail goes, they were a pretty decent employer – disclaimer that I am Canadian and worked at a Canadian Home Depot so YMMV)

      Also, I don’t feel guilty when that happens and I would NEVER bring it back to the store – I had a customer do that to me (I forgot to scan something) and had a different manager been around that day I would have gotten written up.

  7. Polly says:

    This is so interesting, I exclusively use self checkout and avoid staffed lines at all costs. I’d rather get done and get out without having to chat with someone.