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Walmart’s bid to cutdown on shoplifting at self-checkout counters leads to surge in ‘hostile’ encounters with customers

Walmart’s push to crack down on shoplifting at self-checkout counters with anti-theft technology has led to a surge in “hostile” encounters between hourly workers and shoppers, according to a report.

The big-box chain — one of many retailers battling increasing theft that has eaten into their bottom lines — has armed employees with handheld devices that track purchases at self-checkout registers, an Insider report revealed.

However, the workers claim they are not properly trained to handle sticky-fingered shoppers, many of whom have hurled things at them or become aggressive when confronted for not scanning all their purchases, the outlet reported.

“It’s really uncomfortable, and it becomes, like, a safety issue,” one Walmart employee in Illinois told Insider.

The employees are instructed to disable the register when they suspect someone has failed to scan an item, giving the customer “no choice but to call for help,” according to a former employee who posted a TikTok video about Walmart’s procedures.

Employees are then told to “pretend something is wrong with the machine” and to steer the customer to an aisle where they will be checked out by a cashier, according to the video.

Some Walmart employees say they haven’t been properly trained on how to handle conflicts with customers who are suspected of shoplifting.
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A former Walmart employee made a TikTok video about how the company handles theft in its self-checkout aisle.
TikTok/obeygoddess

The company has added large video screens in the self-checkout aisle that capture the moment a customer puts something in a bag without scanning it. 

Employees are instructed not to accuse customers of stealing, and to call a manager over, but the anti-theft technology “feels more confrontational than it was before because…the evidence is right there,” and visible to customers, an employee told Insider.

Customers “often act defensive” the employee told Insider.

Some customers steal from Walmart by not scanning all of the items in their cart.
AFP via Getty Images

Another added, “mostly those who are trying to scam the register are the ones who get upset the most.”

In-store theft has become a pernicious problem for retailers across the country, resulting in major chains shuttering stores hard-hit locations. 

Last month, Target announced that its closing nine stores in major cities, including one in Harlem, citing theft and employee safety as the chief reasons.

Walmart instructs its employees not to accuse customers of theft and to call a manager.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

“We cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” the Minneapolis-based chain said in a statement.

Walmart has also closed stores this year – including the last two it operated in Portland, Ore. – but it has not directly blamed theft for the closures, saying instead that they are “underpeforming.”

Walmart chief executive, Doug McMillon, has called out theft as “higher than what it has historically been,” earlier this year.

Last month, an Atlanta Walmart store was set on fire by arsonists and will reopen with a new police “workspace” inside the store, the company said.

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