Wal-Mart tests iPhone checkout system

The retailer is exploring more ways to cut down on cashier wages.

By Kim Peterson Aug 31, 2012 6:07PM
Image: woman swiping a credit card. Rubberball/Mike Kemp/Rubberball/Getty ImagesUpdated Tuesday, 11:31 a.m. ET

(WMT), already a big fan of self-checkout lanes, is testing technology that lets customers scan items with their iPhones and pay for them without talking to a cashier.

While some customers would applaud the move -- shoppers generally like self-service machines -- the move is designed to help Wal-Mart cut costs. The retailer spends $12 million in cashier wages for every second of transaction time at its U.S. stores, according to its chief financial officer.

Wal-Mart is testing the iPhone "Scan & Go" system at one of its locations near company headquarters in Arkansas, Reuters reports. The company is so enamored with self-checkout that it plans to add more of those lanes at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores.

Here's how the new system would work, according to Reuters: Customers scan items on their phone as soon as they put them into a shopping cart. In fact, they bag the goods while they're shopping. When they're done, they go to a self-checkout counter to pay. An iPhone app will send the shopping list to a regular self-checkout machine, and customers pay at the machine.

It sounds like we're a long way from this test becoming a reality at Wal-Mart. The retailer was so cautious about moving forward that it only opened the experiment to employee friends and family, Reuters reports.

But the move would go hand-in-hand with mobile payment systems that companies are so eager to embrace. Mobile payment is the future, and Wal-Mart's "Scan & Go" app would easily lend itself to that technology.

Self-checkout is quickly expanding in the U.S. as retailers try to cut employee costs. Self-service transactions are growing by more than 7% annually in North America, according to a new study by IHL Group.

And shoppers seem to be OK with that. A survey by NCR Group -- which makes self-checkout machines -- found that a majority of shoppers think self-checkout is faster than waiting in line for a human cashier.

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Aug 31, 2012 9:19PM
Wonder if you get a discount for doing the work yourself? If not I think I will just continue helping keep someone employed doing it for me.
Sep 3, 2012 5:16AM

Hello, There is a very serious problem of fear of reporting unfair labor practice in Walmart. I worked there for almost 10-years with an excellent work history, up until we got a new store manager who was extremely verbally abusive to employees including a mentally handicapped female who he would bash until she was hysterically crying. You could hear her wailing across the store, and when I suggested to employees that we report it they said they were afraid they would be fired. I said we have rights and laws in this country and we do not need to be afraid to report abuse, especially of the handicapped. They said I was naive, and that everyone knows Walmart controls the government and everything with its money and lawyers and prides themselves on being able to get away with doing anything they want, I had more faith and trust in our system than that. I told myself from the begining, do the right thing, tell the truth, follow the rules, and trust God, and i began reporting the abuse to upper management. Before you know it the abusive manager started letting me know he was angry with my reporting him and fired me. That was just the begining of the mess. I went to the NLRB and they filed A charge on walmart for firing me for engaging in protected activity.
Walmart then forced me to drop the charge before they would reinstate my job, and then harshly retaliated on me in many ways including false write ups and 2 more wrongful terminations shortly after i returned. When I went back to the NLRB as they had told me to do should this occur Walmart gave perjurious testimony to the NLRB and told numerous extremely slanderous and defamatory lies in order to have the case dismissed. I have struggled very hard through 2 dismissals before obtaining my NLRB files through FOIA and managing to prove so many lies that walmart had told the NLRB, that i believe that is why The Deputy General Counsel finnally told me to re-file my case. It is now back open, but not going well.
Walmart has gone to great lengths, by doing things like what they did to me, in order to instill an atmosphere of fear of reporting in the employees. Everything is not fine at all in Walmart, in fact nobody has any idea how bad it really is because walmart has carefully ensured that the employees are so afraid to report wrongdoing that they won't even say anything when they hear a mentally handicapped female hysterically wailing across the store and hiding in the break room from the ongoing extreme verbal abuse of the store manager, and when the one guy naive enough to say something speaks up, he is promptly fired and subjected to many forms of retaliation up to and including false terminations and having his name defamed and slandered to the NLRB. I could go on and write a book about everything that I alone have been through, not to mention what others have been through with this evil tactic used by walmart to keep their employees quiet about the truth of what really goes on in those stores on a daily basis, but it seems nobody would probably even care. Meanwhile I have lost my job, my career of nearly 10-years, and probably any chance at ever retiring in my lifetime all because I reported employee abuse including of a mentally handicapped female by a store manager in our walmart store. Robert Snodgrass, 715 Taylor rd., Downingtown, Pa 19335, 484-252-9596 Thank You. God Bless you, and God Bless America

Aug 31, 2012 10:36PM
There go some more loyal employees losing their jobs !
Aug 31, 2012 6:42PM
Well, this will definitely make it easier for shoplifters to do their jobs. They already bring in empty plastic bags and fill them up then walk out with stolen goods. Whatever the company saves on payroll (thanks by the way on behalf of all of your cashiers) they will lose in theft. They had to remove the self check-out lanes in our local Wal-Mart because the theft was so high. People would ring up one item and drop two into the bag. Also how could the payroll possibly be that high when there are never more than 1/3 of the registers manned and they get paid in slave wages?

Aug 31, 2012 7:03PM
If they want to make more money, have more than two cashiers to run the 20 empty lanes.  Always getting stuck in line at Walmart.  I now shop at Target, somehow they manage to have cheaper prices, a nicer store and twice as many cashiers (and still manage to stay in business).  Screw Walmart.
Aug 31, 2012 7:34PM
This is why I don't ever use self-checkout, I don't care if I only have one item, it's icecream and the line is 10 people  long.  I'll wait.  Why?  To try and help those low paid hard working cashiers keep their jobs.  Not only that, I let the managers know that also
Sep 3, 2012 1:07PM
Dear Walmart, Make things here in the US not in China. That way more people have jobs. 
Sep 3, 2012 11:08AM



Sep 3, 2012 9:43AM
That is real smart! People are struggling for jobs and Walmart wants to cut jobs by getting more self check outs and using I-phones to purchase items? They wont need cashiers! SHAME ON THEM FOR PUTTING MORE PEOPLE OUT OF WORK!
Sep 3, 2012 5:05PM
Advice for Wal-Mart cut worthless management and pay the workers what they are worth!!!!!!!  Management at Wal-Mart = fat and lazy!!!!!
Sep 3, 2012 10:37PM
I call BS on the amount of money Walmart is spending on their cashier wages. How can Walmart be spending $12 Million in cashier wages every SECOND? That's over $43 BILLION dollars per hour. Their annual sales are only $400 billion, so tell me how that's possible?  
Aug 31, 2012 7:41PM
if walmart spends 12 mil every sec in cashier payroll they must pay their cashiers 275 dollars a sec , thats at a staff of 8 cashiers and 2 running the self check outs per american store. I am not sure that i have ever seen 8 cashiers at one time at my local store. if walmart is paying this kind of money ,  well im changing careers then.
Sep 3, 2012 2:09PM
try not to use them and save a job, i only use self scan for 1-2 items...nothing else.
Sep 3, 2012 6:39PM
wow ok ;ppl already steal  us blind .think they wont just scan what thay want to and pocket rest .how dumb can walmart be....oh ya they just take their loses from us the  their employees.cut our hours take our bonuses .
Sep 3, 2012 5:14PM

Walmart doesnt pay emplyees enough to buy insurance let alone pay rent



Sep 3, 2012 4:52PM
1 more reason not to shop at Walmart.
Sep 3, 2012 12:06PM
I think one of the reasons there are lines at the human cashier is a lot of people like me hate hate hate the self checkout lane. Seems like something always goes wrong there. Are all the baskarts going to have scales on them? what's to keep thieves from bagging up goods that  they did not scan?
Sep 3, 2012 2:14PM
The cashless society has begun. Think the money masters have a lot a control now? Just wait until they can scan your taxes straight from your electronic device.
Sep 3, 2012 9:38AM

I do not have an iPhone nor plan to buy one in the near future. Too expensive at the moment. While I understand the preference for self-checkout, it is not peaches and roses. The lines can be long due to people doing it themselves, sometimes there are tech problems and a worker has to come and fix the issue, workers still bag items that are not bagged, and occasionally it will be under repair (though this could happen anywhere). In addition, not everyone has an iPhone. A grocery chain, Stop & Shop, optionally provides a small electronic device for shoppers to scan and bag their items before checkout. All that is needed is a Stop & Shop rewards card and returning the device when done. No need for an expensive phone!!

Sep 4, 2012 12:51AM
Great that's all we need. Less work for people and more money for the rich. If we don't use it they can't prosper . Use the checkouts with human contact people. Our future children need jobs!!!

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