You trudge through the cavernous store, fill up your shopping cart, unload it all at the checkout, and stare in astonishment at the ever-increasing total on the register. After emptying your wallet to pay, you shuffle to the exit, trying to remember where you parked, and then it happens – you get stopped at the door by an employee, in order to suffer the indignity of having your receipt and cart scrutinized to make sure you really paid for everything when you just checked out 30 seconds ago.

That’s the price many of us have to pay to help thwart shoplifters at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco and other stores across the country. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And soon, it won’t be for at least one of those retailers.

Sam’s Club is revealing new details about its artificial intelligence and computer vision technology system that it first introduced last month, to eliminate manual receipt checks at the door. It’s a system that will soon be in place at all Sam’s stores, and if Sam’s owner Walmart likes what it sees, it could mark the beginning of the end of the often-contentious receipt checks at Walmart as well.

In ten test locations where the new system is already in place, “shopping cart images are captured by cameras and, using A.I. in the background, payments are seamlessly verified – eliminating the wait at the exit while also enabling member specialists to engage with members,” Sam’s explained in a new blog post. Shoppers just walk through a giant arch – a minimalist, less-imposing version of an airport security metal detector – and cameras instantly identify all of the items in their shopping cart, verifying that each item has been paid for, as they walk by.


Sam’s says the technology aims to “resolve a key member concern: waiting in line for receipt verification to exit.” Shoppers have said “they want a faster and more convenient shopping experience and consistently rated the wait times at the exit – especially during busy periods – as a pain point in the shopping experience.” So the retailer plans to roll out the new system in all of its nearly 600 stores by the end of the year, making it “the first retailer to implement this type of technology at this scale.”

So might Walmart take a page from its club-store cousin, and implement this new technology in its stores? Shoppers at club stores like Sam’s and Costco submit to receipt checks as a condition of being a member. There’s no such condition attached to shopping at Walmart. So its receipt-checking practice in many stores has become the subject of arguments, viral internet posts and sometimes physical altercations.

Just over the past month alone, several Walmart shoppers have posted to social media their unfortunate experiences with receipt checkers. “You have cameras in your store, and then you have another camera at the self-checkout pointing right at you,” one TikToker posted recently. “So I check out my items after going through all of these security measures, just to get to the door for you to ask me again to see my receipt? The answer is no.” Another TikToker filmed herself telling an employee who asked if she could see her receipt, ““No, you can’t… You think I’m stealing some $3 water? You can’t check my receipt.” A third shopper posted a video telling his followers, “If you’re like me, I don’t do it… If I’m good enough to check out all of my groceries, bag it and everything else, and practically have to go back into the stock room and do all my own stocking and everything – no, I’m not showing you my receipt.”

The employees would argue they’re just doing their jobs. And if checking receipts helps deter shoplifters, that can help keep prices low for all of us. But there has to be a better way.

And now there is. Soon, shopping at Sam’s Club could become much smoother and a lot more pleasant. It will be up to Walmart to decide whether what’s good for Sam’s is good for Walmart, its employees and its frustrated shoppers as well.

Image source: Sam’s Club

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