Testing an arrangement meant both to limit human contact to reduce the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus and to speed up checkout times, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) launched a cashier-free store configuration at their Fayetteville, Arkansas location. The store now features only a lineup of self checkout lanes, with zero traditional cashiers or cash registers.
To ensure shoppers can receive assistance if they have trouble with the self checkout machines, and presumably to maintain Walmart's current standards of frequent sanitation, "self checkout hosts" are stationed nearby. According to company statements, customers can also request the hosts run their groceries through the self checkout process while they wait, effectively using the checkout stations like normal registers.
Talking with TODAY Style, Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg stated the company approached the new setup from the perspective of "how can we move people through a checkout experience quicker at a Walmart?" He also noted that one of the primary reasons for the setup is to "move people through and get them onto the rest of their day as quickly as possible." Besides saving shoppers time, not waiting in lines is also intended to help reduce exposure to coronavirus infection.
Online comments ran the gamut from hearty approval of the test store's approach, with some shoppers saying they already use only self checkout when making purchases at Walmart, to condemnation. Some opposed the new setup because they thought the arrangement would reduce local jobs. Lundberg appeared to address this in his statement, remarking "the job of the cashier may look a little bit different, but it's still going to be in that store" and asserting no employees will be laid off at the test store because of the changes.