Walmart is testing a new store in Arkansas, its home state, that doesn’t feature any cashiers. Rather than standing in line, putting items on a conveyor belt, and waiting for the cashier to scan and bag them, customers will use self-checkout technology to ring up their own products. The test is intended to see whether this system can get customers through the process more quickly than traditional checkout systems.
The information comes from FOX5, which reports that the test is being conducted at a store located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The company will remove the cashiers and typical conveyor belt checkout systems from this store, replacing them with its self-checkout systems.
These machines are already found in Walmart stores across the nation, but this will be the only store where human cashiers aren’t available. The company explained the test to FOX5 from the perspective of it being potentially beneficial to limit exposure to other people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, that explanation won’t likely sit well with critics who are worried about the potential for artificial intelligence to replace jobs, particularly low-skill employment opportunities that many people rely upon. The decision to test this type of cashier-less operation isn’t surprising, however.
Amazon introduced the concept of cashier-free shopping in a big way with its Amazon Go convenience stores; in the years since, we’ve seen various tests and heard rumors of similar ambitions from competitor Walmart, which has considerably more stores, but also the technical issues that come with such massive destinations.
According to the report, Walmart may expand this self-checkout-only system in other stores if the test goes well.