The ‘Walmart Conspiracy Theory’ and Vanishing Self-Checkouts

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Feb 28, 2024

A TikToker believes she has uncovered a grand conspiracy in which Walmart aims to drastically increase the number of people signing up to its service, Walmart+.

It’s centered on the noticeable removal of self-checkout desks throughout many American stores. But is there really any truth to her claims?

Reduction in Self Checkouts

Over the past few years, major grocery and retail chains have been reducing the amount of self-service desks in their stores.

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Several customers are pictured using a self-checkout kiosk in a British supermarket

Source: Wikipedia

Walmart, Costco, and Wegmans began removing the kiosks in 2023 after reporting an increase in technical faults and a rise in intentional shoplifting or “shrinking,” according to CNN.

Removal of Self-Checkout Kiosks Worldwide

The reduction of the once-popular service desks has spread to major retailers in other parts of the world, including Great Britain. Nigel Murray, managing director of Booths, a prominent British chain, spoke with the BBC last year to explain why they removed numerous self-self kiosks.

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A self-checkout kiosk is pictured in a small retail store

Source: Wikimedia

“Our customers have told us this over time — that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores can be slow, they can be unreliable [and] they’re obviously impersonal, he said.

Is Walmart+ Secretly Behind Removal?

While the reasoning behind the removal of self-service desks appears believable, one TikToker, @lgbtavenger, argues there’s a deeper conspiracy behind Walmart’s decision.

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A TikToker is pictured in a black shirt during a video about Walmart+

Source: @lgbtavenger

During a short video uploaded to her account, she theorizes the retail chain began removing many of its self-checkout desks to increase the popularity of its Walmart+ service.

What Is Walmart+?

In 2020, Walmart launched its brand new membership program, Walmart+, which offers numerous in-store and online benefits, per NBC.

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A photograph of a Walmart store in Bentonville, USA

Source: Wikipedia

The service costs $12.95 per month. It includes free deliveries from all Walmart stores, special prices on fuel, and allows customers to make use of the mobile scan and go.

Walmart Tries to Increase Subscriptions

TikToker @lgbtavenger is under the impression the retail giant has decided to eliminate self-checkouts in an attempt to increase Walmart+ subscriptions.

A woman pictured using her phone inside a large retail store

Source: Freepik

“They’re turning off the self-checkouts because they want everyone to sign up for Walmart+,” she said on TikTok.

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Mobile Scan and Go

Mobile scan and go allows Walmart customers to scan everything in their carts as they walk around the store.

A woman is pictured using her phone to pay for groceries before leaving a supermarket

Source: Freepik

Instead of going through a checkout counter as they leave, they simply scan a QR code, which enables the consumer to pay for their haul. This saves customers time and the hassle of waiting in line at the regular checkout.

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Scan Your Groceries and Run Out the Door

The TikToker’s theory suggests Walmart has intentionally removed self-checkout desks in an attempt to increase the popularity of mobile pay and go, which is only available through Walmart+.

A woman is pictured leaving a supermarket with a trolley full of shopping

Source: Freepik

“With the paid membership to Walmart+, you get to scan and go, which means you get to scan your groceries, pay for it on your phone, and walk out the door,” she said.

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No New Cashiers at Walmart

With the removal of numerous self-checkout kiosks at Walmart stores across the U.S., ideally, the retail giant would replace these with more cashiers. Yet, this is not the case, according to @lgbtavenger.

A customer is seen paying a cashier for his grocery shop with a credit card

Source: Freepik

“They’re not going to put more cashiers there they want the lines to be wrapped around the store out the door,” she said.

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Walmart Continues Closing Down Self-Checkouts

As the video continues, @lgbtavenger argues the retail giants want to create a situation that will lead to more shoppers signing up for their subscription service.

A TikToker pictured during a video uploaded to her account

Source: @lgbtavenger

“They are literally pulling cashiers and closing down the self-checkouts because they want to create a situation where everybody has the $12.99 a month Walmart+ subscription so they can avoid standing in lines,” she said.

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Walmart Saves on Labor and Makes More Money

The TikToker’s theory suggests that Walmart aims to save on labor costs and increase gross profit through the Walmart+ subscription services.

A man dressed in overalls stocks the fresh vegetable section during a workday

Source: Freepik

“That way, they save on labor, and you pay a subscription service they can make a lot of money on,” she said.

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Subscription Service Too Convenient to Cancel

At the end of the video, @lgbtavenger suggests people will continue to pay for the service due to the convenience of skipping lines.

A woman is pictured scanning the fresh produce section of a grocery store

Source: Freepik

“They’re going to keep not having cashiers, they’re going to keep closing down self-checkouts, they’re going to keep pushing Walmart+ because they know once you get down on that subscription service model, you’re probably not going to cancel it because it’s too convenient,” she said.

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TikToker Racks Up Plenty of Views

The conspiracy theory has since been viewed nearly 500,000 times on TikTok, with many agreeing with her views.

A woman dressed in a white hoodie walks alongside her partner inside a grocery store

Source: Freepik

Yet, not everyone seems interested in joining up for Walmart+. One TikToker user wrote, “I’m so stubborn, I would rather stand in line for 2+ hours than pay for another subscription.”

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