Walmart Confirms Chain-Wide Self-Checkout Glitch

Written by Evan Schuman
August 1st, 2012

When a picture of a Walmart self-checkout screen showing the wrong total for a purchase made its way around the Web this week, many assumed it had been altered or perhaps the screen had been captured the instant before an update. But Walmart has now confirmed that a software update impacted almost all of the chain’s self-checkout units for about two weeks, causing incorrect and confusing displays. The receipts and the amounts charged, however, were reportedly correct.

Sometime in mid-July, the machines were given a “routine update” via a blast from a Walmart server, said Walmart spokesperson Ashley Hardie.

“A recent update caused a display error. It did not impact the price charged to customers,” she said. “This issue has now been corrected, when we provided another update.”

Update: The day after Walmart said the matter was resolved, a report out of Michigan late on Wednesday (Aug. 1) found Walmart self-checkout systems to be down entirely while waiting for upgrades and “that it was affecting other Walmart stores across the country.” We are waiting to hear back from Walmart.

The nature of self-checkout makes this a relatively non-interruptive error; the receipt is the more important document. When customers do look at the screen as items are scanned, they are almost always checking to see if the item’s price is correct, as opposed to watching to see if the total grows by the correct amount. That said, for customers who did notice the strange screen readings, it probably didn’t make them confident the amount charged would be correct.

This is a potentially meaningful psychological issue with self-checkout. Even though the reliance on POS accuracy is just about the same with self-checkout as it is with an associate performing cashier duties (rare is the Walmart associate who will give any change amount other than what the POS tells them to, even if simple math makes it clearly wrong), the shopper’s perception of reliance on the system is much higher with self-checkout. Therefore, it’s much more of a problem to have this type of glitch in a self-checkout lane than a staffed lane, presuming the store’s objective is to move as many customers through lower cost self-checkout lanes as possible.

This incident is just what self-checkout needs right now. And it’s also a great argument for shoppers using their mobile devices to see real-time charges on their payment cards or bank debit cards.


One Comment | Read Walmart Confirms Chain-Wide Self-Checkout Glitch

  1. thomas rundquist, M.A. Says:

    This summer I found a cashier at Walmart that shorted me the change of a dollar or two.He corrected when I showed him the receipt and change.

    As I am 67 yrs now, I have found I need to make sure I get a receipt and check the change as as I look old and senile.

    In many ocasions I just use my debit card to avoid being shortchanged.Is this a smalltown localized practice targeting senile looking seniors? I doubt it.

    I was a Social Investigator for Wayne Co Sheriff’s Dept years ago and counseled many criminals who did scams on seniors in particular. I am editor of Drug Culture Monopoly, which my clients explained how criminals hustle. In the 70’s it was called Horse is Boss.

    So I know how criminals can operate.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.