Walmart Stores Theft – How It’s Impacting Customers And Stores
Walmart store theft is an increasing problem and it's forced the retailer to close locations.
While the store continues to have great offers like Rollbacks or toy specials, Walmart store theft appears to be on the rise and there doesn’t appear to be many solutions for the retailer. Now, in some areas, Walmart store theft has become such a problem that the nation’s largest retailer is just closing up shop rather than dealing with it. This is really a turn of events where Walmart is concerned and could cause larger-scale issues for the company in general.
Though Walmart store theft has seen a rise in the prevailing issue in recent months, the store has struggled with it for years now. They have a store policy where theft is concerned, but keeping a handle on it has always been difficult.
There are a number of things to know about Walmart store theft, how the company deals with it, where it’s become an overwhelming issue, and how it could affect the company’s bottom line.
WALMART HAS A STORE THEFT PROBLEM, FORCING LOCATIONS TO CLOSE
While Walmart store theft has always been a problem (it is for every retailer on some level), it seems to have become an increasing issue of late. The company has been reporting multiple high-level problems with theft and in recent months it has meant the closing of stores in certain cities. Walmart, in these cases, has cited store theft as the specific reason for financial lagging.
In December 2022, the CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillon, came out and said that store theft would have a couple of down-chain effects for the company. For starters, he said that the prevalence of theft would lead to higher prices in locations. This was meant to specifically combat losses because goods and merchandise were just (essentially) walking out of stores without being paid for. This becomes a problem for actual paying customers.
And he also said that in some places, the Walmart store theft was getting so bad that they would have to shutter stores completely. While at the time this seemed like maybe just corporate speak meant to put pressure on local lawmakers to take some kind of action, it doesn’t appear to be a hollow threat at all.
In March 2023, Walmart announced that it would close the last of its stores in the Portland, Oregon area because Walmart store theft was so rampant. The company cited the financial burden of theft at those locations and said, in essence, that the city had provided little-to-no help where the crime was concerned.
While there are 5,317 Walmart locations in the US, it’s clear that the company isn’t going to continue operating in areas where store theft is such a prevailing issue. And threats to shutter locations clearly weren’t just made in passing. While the Portland store closings were something of a surprise, the retailer has closed locations in other states like Florida and Illinois as well.
SELF-CHECKOUT IS A BIG PROBLEM WITH WALMART STORE THEFT
In addition to talking about Walmart store theft in general, McMillon also specified that one of the major issues the stores were combatting was people using the self-checkout as a means of stealing. It’s easy to see why. Basically, customers were getting to that section with their goods and simply not scanning them as part of the purchasing process.
McMillon didn’t specify whether customers were more inclined to purchase some goods while not ringing up their whole cart, or just walking out with a complete load of unpaid goods. But he did say that this process of using the self-checkout was responsible for an increase in Walmart store theft.
One way self-checkout was a mode for Walmart store theft was what’s been called the “Banana trick.” This is a scam in which customers use self-checkout and go through the scanning process, but they are taking the stickers off of lower-priced items and scanning those instead. So a customer might have a sticker for a banana (to use the same name) and scan that instead of the much more expensive item they have in their cart.
This will give the impression to a Walmart employee that the transaction is going down as it should, except the price the customer is paying (sometimes even by personal checks or Walmart money orders) is obviously much, much lower.
Walmart has said it is going to introduce artificial intelligence technology that will be able to “see” the actual item being scanned in order to match it to the sticker. They have said this will greatly reduce this practice going forward.
WALMART HAS A NO-CHASE POLICY FOR STORE THEFT
Another reason Walmart has such an issue with store theft in some areas is that criminals know the policy of the retailer in these situations. Namely, Walmart will not actively pursue someone they think has shoplifted or who they think is in the act of shoplifting.
A no-chase policy means that if a Walmart employee thinks a customer is shoplifting, they will follow that person in the store and call the police. But the employee themself will not take any action against the person they think is committing theft.
This leaves the store sometimes waiting for police response to the incident and in the meantime, a person can leave with the goods. This no-chase policy around Walmart store theft is often known among criminals, meaning they are aware that the actual store employee has little recourse. If a police officer isn’t in the area, then there is often little that can be done.
The reason Walmart employs a no-chase policy even with rampant store theft is that they are trying to avoid liability claims if something happens in the pursuit of an alleged shoplifter. In the past, this has led to injuries to all parties, and the company is looking to avoid lawsuits around it. Apparently, the prevailing wisdom here is that it is “better” to lose the stolen item than incur hefty legal and liability costs if something happens.