A former Walmart employee tells how he used a secret codename to conceal his identity before exposing the flaw in an anti-theft device.
A major retailer partnered with an Irish AI company in 2017 to deploy enhanced technology across its stores to combat shoplifting crimes.
Top-quality cameras monitor shopper activity in-store, and self-checkout machines alert staff if items aren’t scanned, according to insiders.
But one Walmart employee told WIRED in 2020 that the technology, designed by Eversen, even falsely accused customers of stealing.
The employee was part of a group of disgruntled staff who dubbed themselves “Home Office Associates of Concern.”
Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas is commonly known as the Home Office.
Codenames also helped protect the identities of the staff.
They claimed that the technology was unofficially “never seen” and that technology-related errors had caused long queues in the store.
The staff claimed that technology “pushed them past their breaking point.”
An Eversen spokesperson told Wired that the technology “accurately and effectively identifies potential thefts.” [sic] That’s why the retailer has installed it in thousands of locations to date and plans to install more. “
In 2021, Eversen sued Walmart, claiming that it used its technology to create devices.
The company said in December 2021 that the lawsuit was “amicably resolved.”
The spokesperson added:
Walmart employs several tactics as part of its efforts to crack down on shoplifting.
That comes after retailer CEO Doug McMillon warned in December that theft was a problem.
He told CNBC Squawk Box:
McMillon feared that customers could be adversely affected as prices would rise and stores could close.
Walmart US CEO John Furner also admitted at the National Retail Federation’s Retail Big Show that 2022 has been a “historically difficult year.”
Retailers rely on locking some items and placing others behind plexiglass as part of their efforts to reduce theft.
However, the policy sparked outrage among customers, with one woman claiming that shopping had become “impossible.”
The US Sun reported how TikTokers were outraged when mascara costing less than $10 was trapped in a box.
Irate shoppers tweeted their frustration that items such as socks and pregnancy tests were stored.
David Johnston, vice president of property protection and retail operations at the National Retail Federation, told Insider that more and more things went under “lock and key” during the holidays.
He admitted that it “probably isn’t good” for the shopper experience in the long run.
But retailers such as Lowe’s have taken a different approach, implementing a strategy that executives say is “almost invisible” to shoppers.