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If you’ve ever complained that there aren’t enough cashiers staffing the checkout lanes at your local Walmart, then a Walmart with no cashiers and no traditional checkout lanes at all might be just the solution.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it might turn out to be the very future of the in-store checkout experience.

We first got word last month that Walmart was testing out a self-checkout-only Supercenter in Fayetteville, Arkansas, not far from Walmart’s home base of Bentonville. But Walmart was careful to explain that calling it self-checkout-only was not necessarily the best way to describe what it had in mind when redesigning the checkout area.

So now, Walmart is lifting the curtain and letting everyone see what shoppers in Fayetteville have been experiencing these last few weeks. A company blog post and an accompanying video (click to play it above) shows what Walmart’s new checkout experience is all about, as the retailer tries it out before possibly bringing it to a Walmart near you.

“Cashiers stationed at conveyor-belted lanes have been a retail staple for decades,” Walmart’s blog post reads. The Fayetteville checkout, in contrast, “seeks to challenge the assumption that old ways are better.”

The usual Walmart Supercenter has a handful of self-checkout stations on either end of the store, with a sea of traditional checkouts in between. But what good are all of those traditional checkouts, if you’re shopping at time when the majority of them aren’t staffed and aren’t open?

The Fayetteville Walmart does away with traditional checkouts, and instead features 34 registers in an open area in the front of the store. And unlike traditional checkout lanes, all of these checkouts are open, all the time.

“At first glance, the new area may look like it’s just a bunch of self-checkout registers,” Walmart explains. “But ask any associate, and they’ll tell you it’s a full-service checkout experience.”

The checkouts are indeed self-checkouts, to the extent that you can scan and bag your own items as you would at any other Walmart self-checkout station. But assistance is easier to find than it is at some self-checkout stations you may have visited in the past, where there’s one bored attendant overseeing a bunch of checkouts and it’s impossible to get their attention when you need help.

Walmart employees who might otherwise have been cashiers, have now been trained as “hosts,” who greet shoppers as they enter the checkout area, direct them to an open register, or offer to scan and bag their items just like they would at a traditional checkout lane.

“We will go to any register, and we will help you in any fashion you want, whether it’s checking out one item or all the items. Any questions you have, we’re right there for you,” store manager Carl Morris said.

The new system is also a lot faster, Walmart says. Not only are all of the registers open at all times, but the system eliminates the challenges and pitfalls of trying to determine the fastest checkout lane. No longer do you have to scan all the traditional registers, seeing which ones are open, how many people are in line at each one, and how many items they have in their order. “This creates a never-ending grass-is-always-greener scenario where the customer spends time calculating which line will take the least amount of time,” Walmart explains.

Grocery stores and big-box retailers like Walmart have long been trying to come up with a faster and more efficient way to get customers checked out. Some have experimented with funneling all customers into a single line, and directing them to the next open register. Others have tried installing green, yellow and red “traffic lights” at each register, so you know which ones are moving the fastest.

But neither of these unusual ideas caught on. Instead, it seems the answer to a faster checkout may have been right under everyone’s noses all along – the very self-checkout stations that some cashiers saw as a threat, some retailers claimed to dislike, and some shoppers seemed to love complaining about. Attitudes toward self-checkouts have now evolved to the point that they’re not seen as an annoying alternative option – they may actually be the best option going forward.

Walmart notes that the Fayetteville setup is still just a test, and it’s too soon to say whether shoppers will embrace it. If they do, there’s a chance the checkout system could roll out across the country. At least one person who knows the new system well, is optimistic. “There’s no doubt in my mind we will win the customer over as long as they give us a chance,” store manager Morris said.

So it you can’t make it to the Walmart store in Fayetteville, Arkansas to check it out for yourself – the reaction of shoppers there could determine whether you’ll soon be checking out a whole new way at a Walmart near you.

Image source: Walmart

2 Comments

  1. I will completely stop shopping at Walmart, no Rx, no weekly $90.00 dog food trip because I don’t work for Walmart and I’m not scanning my groceries. It’s bad enough that I wait in line for 68 minutes to check out and there’s only 2 people in front of me. Yea, Hope that laziest cashier seems to believe that sitting at her register and having casual conversations at her connivence is part of her job description. I’m guessing cashiers have been told to slow the pace and do as little as possible to push the idea of self checkout. Knock yourself out, but I’m not. Walmart is already on my shit list for scamming couponers by raising prices of items to match current coupons. Market Basket here I come!

  2. Pingback: more details about Walmart of the Future - deranged.mederanged.me

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