Have you ever gotten lost in a Walmart, wandering up and down the endless aisles in the cavernous store looking for a specific item? If so, then look on the bright side – just think of all the exercise you’re getting!

Now Walmart is latching onto that idea to help make its customers healthier. The more weight you want to lose, calories you want to burn, or steps you want to get in, the more time Walmart will make you spend walking around in its stores.

The idea is described in a newly-published patent application called “Deoptimized Shopping Route for Achieving User Fitness Goals.” The proposal suggests an app that would keep track of your grocery list and map out a shopping route in the store – which, by itself, is nothing that others haven’t already done.

But the shopping route in this case would be “deoptimized.” Instead of steering you in a logical fashion from point A in the front of the store, to point B in the next aisle, to point C further down that same aisle, it will take you straight to point F in the middle of the store, then on to point Q way in the back, then return you to point A in the front, and so on. So instead of “locating the needed goods in a shortest amount of time in a shortest amount of walking distance,” the patent application explains, the system “prioritizes achieving the fitness goals of the user over a speed or efficiency of a route through the shopping center.”

Those fitness goals could be anything from “daily steps, calories burned, minutes exercised, time spent at given heart rate, carbohydrates burned, fat burned, etc.” By communicating with your phone or a wearable device like a Fitbit, Walmart’s system could even get very specific, by, for example, “calculating a route that will allow the user to burn 350 calories.”


To use the system, you would need to give it access to your shopping list. Or you could provide it with a meal plan, and the system will automatically create a list of items in the store that you need to purchase. The app would incorporate a scan-and-go system that will keep track of the items you put in your cart, and let you pay from your phone.

And if, at the end, your shopping trip is deemed a success, the system “may generate rewards, such as coupons, for exceeding and/or achieving the fitness goal of the user.”

But what if you see a chocolate bar that’s not on your list, but you just can’t resist? You’re going to have to work for it.

If the system determines that a scanned product “is not on the shopping list or an approved good of the meal plan,” it will consider the calorie count of the item and reconfigure the route through the store accordingly.

For instance, “if the user grabs 2% milk instead of the skim milk that the meal plan is calling for… the route determination system may adjust the calculated route to counteract the added calories.” Alternatively, the system could make you work harder and burn more calories by “applying a restriction force against the wheel of the shopping cart, to make it more difficult to push.”

As with any patent application, there’s no guarantee this idea will ever become reality. But if it does, shopping at Walmart could become even more difficult – and, in this case, at least for the sake of your health, that might actually be a good thing.

Image source: Walmart



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  3. Interesting concept. Sounds to me like the underlying strategy is really to get shoppers to walk down more aisles to potentially make more impulse purchases, thereby increasing the total ring of the shopping trip!

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