Some May Think Twice Before Using Self-Checkout At Walmart, Here’s Why

In an attempt to decrease theft at its self-checkout registers, Walmart installed cameras that track customer movements and can tell when items are unscanned.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

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The ID recognition software at self-checkout stations is a growing concern for Walmart shoppers. Some have even become hesitant to use these smart machines. Others have posted warnings about the technology on social media. A TikTok user named Aubrey even likened the store’s anti-theft systems to Big Brother-style monitoring.

“Y’all better watch out, Walmart isn’t playing anymore,” she said in a video. The clip shows a monitor displaying the feed from the chain’s security cameras. The device appeared to track the movements of each customer using motion sensors. While some folks were concerned, others needed a more comprehensive explanation about how it related to self-checkout.

“I don’t get it. What does that do exactly?” one person asked in the comments. Aubrey responded in a separate video. “Essentially what those cameras do is track you around the store and pretty much scan the items you pick up,” she said via The Sun. “I worked at a grocery store in 2016 and those cameras were able to detect un-scanned items going out the door,” she continued referencing the self-checkout.

“Just so you guys know, Walmart does that too,” Aubrey added. Although people made jokes about the self-checkout service, they noted the scary inconvenience of these security measures due to the lack of human employees. “They do everything but hire cashiers!” one person wrote. “All this technology and they’re still going to ask for a receipt,” said another.

Self-checkout stations at Walmart were designed to reduce labor costs. But stores still suffer when some shoppers unintentionally steal items. Carrie Jernigan, a lawyer who shares her expertise on TikTok, recently warned her followers about the hazards of these kiosks. She says even if the item didn’t scan, the retail giant can still prosecute.

And this situation doesn’t only apply to Walmart. Jernigan claims that all big box stores examine months-old security footage when reviewing missing inventory. Along with the ill-timed charges, another attorney says these unintentional thefts will be enough to permanently end the tradition of self-checkout.

Dod Ghassemkhani, a criminal defense attorney based in San Diego, believes that self-checkout machines will disappear from Walmart and other stores in the long term. “They will eventually go because there’s so much theft,” he said via The Sun. “At some point, it’s not going to be worth it for stores to keep their doors open.”

Data from the National Retail Security Survey in 2022 revealed that almost $100 billion was lost from shrinkage. As such, major retailers have shared their concerns about the consequences of shoplifting. To mitigate the issues with self-checkout, Walmart has included weight sensors to improve security around the kiosks.

But these improvements to the self-checkout systems still have a few bugs in them. The sensors often wrongly state that there are unexpected items in the bagging area. This error requires employee assistance, resulting in a delayed checkout experience.

Moreover, some stealing can’t be stopped even as stores make additions to self-checkout security. There are also instances in which customers make honest mistakes, resulting in unintentional stealing. Walmart has not commented on the added security measures in its stores.