Shopping at Walmart is part of a regular routine for millions of people each day. And despite the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, running errands at the world's largest retailer is still usually a smooth and relatively uneventful experience by design. But now, a former Walmart employee is warning shoppers there's one secret procedure the store has you might want to know about. Read on to see what you should be careful of the next time you're shopping.
A former Walmart employee is warning shoppers that stores are watching you at self-checkout.
Although they're somewhat controversial, Walmart has embraced self-checkout counters as a way for customers to hopefully speed up their transactions and cut down on long lines. But while the service may simply be a convenient option for most shoppers, a former Walmart employee is warning that shoppers who think they can easily shoplift by taking advantage of the unstaffed cash registers could be in for a surprise, DailyDot reports.
In a viral TikTok, ex-Walmart worker Athenia Camacho exposes how staff at the megaretailer can keep an eye on the self-run counters and spot anyone looking to walk away with items they haven't paid for. "Do not steal from Walmart self-checkouts…you will get caught," she warns.
Employees can remotely pause transactions at self-checkout registers if they suspect anything.
According to Camacho, the procedure involves staff keeping an eye on shoppers and using a special device to stop someone in the process of checking themselves out. "On these Walmart TC devices, we have the option to pause your self-checkout at any point and pretend there's something wrong with the machine if we suspect there's anything you're stealing," she explains.
"So at any point on this device, if we click the number, it will show us your entire order and everything that you've so far scanned in, and if we suspect that you're stealing, there's going to be an option at the bottom that says 'pause transaction,'" she continued. "At that point, you have no choice but to call for help, and once we come over, we pretend like something is wrong with the machine," she explained, pointing out that the kiosk's screen will appear to show a malfunction error message, with some employees even going so far as to physically open the machine to pretend to fix it.
"At that point, what they do is, if you already have things inside the bag and you're stealing, they'll take everything out of the bags and they'll be like: 'Don't worry, we'll ring you up at another machine. There must be something wrong with this one,'" Camacho says. "And at that point, they'll just take you to a main checkout where there's an actual person to cash you out."
Other employees have warned about anti-theft technology at Walmart.
It isn't clear if the procedure is standard among all stores or just at the location where Camacho previously worked. But according to another employee, there is technology in place that Walmart is using to keep an eye on stolen items.
In a TikTok video posted on Oct. 20, 2021, employee Réjean Allen outlines how surveillance cameras above self-checkout kiosks will pick up any suspicious movements and alert staff. "The slightest hand movement that looks like you're stealing, that camera catches it and it puts in on the screen," he says. "And then it will replay your video back of when you're trying to steal something if you didn't scan it."
Studies have shown that shoplifters feel self-checkout kiosks are an easy target.
While some social media users called out Walmart for their tactics in the posted videos, research has shown that self-checkout kiosks have created a novel situation for an age-old practice. According to studies from the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), surveys of small-time shoplifting offenders have found that many feel emboldened by the lack of staff watching their transactions take place, the CBC reports.
"If I think nobody's watching me and nobody's seeing what I'm doing, I'm far more likely to misbehave," Barbara Staib, a NASP spokesperson, told the CBC. "That's just human nature."
Others pointed out that some shoppers justify the act by blaming the new technology. "'Now I've got to bag my own stuff and I've got to check out myself … and it's a little bit of a hassle, so, guess what, I get to take one or two things for free,' that's the mentality," Bob Moraca, vice-president of loss prevention at National Retail Federation, told the CBC.