Walmart is on a quest to make its in-store pickup process free of human interaction.
The big-box store is rolling out a giant self-serve kiosk tower for online orders to more than a dozen locations. Customers simply arrange their shipment ahead of time, visit the store, and access their order via a barcode scanner on the side of the machine. Each package is preloaded by workers.
The massive orange towers stand 16 feet tall by 8 feet wide and deliver items through a conveyor belt inside the contraption. Walmart began testing the system last fall in an Arkansas store near its headquarters.
The device isn't the only giant vending machine being implemented as the retailer looks for ways to compete with Amazon's hyper-efficient service. Earlier this year, Walmart unveiled a similar, much larger storage unit for grocery orders.
Walmart is banking on its thousands of stores and army of store employees to serve as a key advantage in its ongoing war with the online shopping juggernaut. Other experiments that cater to these strengths include a program in which store workers deliver packages on the way home from work and a partnership with Uber for short-distance delivery orders.
Amazon's pending blockbuster deal to acquire Whole Foods will only up the ante as the company leverages its own major network of brick-and-mortar stores for the first time.
9 secret ways to save money at Walmart
9 secret ways to save money at Walmart
1. Take Advantage of Walmart's Price Matching Policy
Even if Walmart isn’t offering the lowest price on a given item, you can take advantage of the store’s price match policy to secure a better deal. Walmart will match any advertised price from stores in your area, said Paul Ivanovsky, creator of IHeartTheMart.com, a blog dedicated to saving money at Walmart. To qualify, the items in question must be identical and in stock at the other retailer. According to Ivanovsky, the price matching policy is a great way to save money on items such as fruit, meat and paper products.
Additionally, Walmart will match many online competitors’ prices for home goods and other non-food items. While restrictions exist, the retail giant will generally match prices for goods from Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Target.com and TigerDirect.com, among other stores.
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2. Get Online Prices in the Store
Before you make a purchase in one of its stores, see if Walmart is offering a better price online, as the company will match Walmart.com prices for in-store purchases. Bethany Halford, co-creator of the Whoa, Wait. Walmart? blog that features great finds at Walmart, said she frequently finds items that have been marked down online but not in the stores.
To get the better price, she pulls the item up on her phone and shows it to the cashier when she checks out. Recently, Halford saved a couple dollars when she found a pair of slippers selling for $12.88 in the store and about $10 online.
If you forgot to check other stores’ prices before shopping at Walmart, you still can take advantage of the retailer’s price match policy after the fact by using the Savings Catcher app. After scanning your receipt with the app, you can compare the prices you paid with local competitors’ advertised rates, Ivanovsky said. If an item you bought is cheaper elsewhere, you will be credited the difference in the form of Savings Catcher Rewards Dollars, which can be redeemed for a Walmart gift card or Walmart Buck$ to be added to a Bluebird by American Express Card prepaid debit card.
“Even if you don’t think you bought something that can be matched, you might be surprised at what the Savings Catcher finds for you,” said Dian Farmer of GroceryShopForFree.com.
Shipping costs can quickly negate the savings you might accumulate by shopping online. However, there are two ways you can get free shipping from Walmart.com. If you spend $50 or more online, Walmart will ship your purchases for free, Halford said. While there’s a flat $4.97 shipping fee for orders less than $50, shoppers can get around that fee by having online purchases shipped to their local stores, said Amanda Jerkins, the other co-creator of Whoa, Wait. Walmart?
It’s important to note that perishable products, hazardous materials and items weighing more than 350 pounds aren’t eligible for free store pickup. With many other items, though, you can pick them up the same day you order them online.
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5. Comb Through the Clearance Racks
If you rush through your Walmart trips, you might miss out on some of the retailer’s best clearance deals. Typically, deeply discounted items are placed in an aisle near the toy or lawn and garden department, Halford said. When she and Jerkins comb through the clearance racks, they often find that items they were coveting at full price are now on sale for much less.
For example, Jerkins said she recently found a floor lamp she wanted that was marked down from $45 to $20 in the clearance section. She also recommends checking the end caps on aisles throughout the store for heavily discounted items.
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6. Shop Early in the Morning for Grocery Deals
If your local Walmart has a grocery department, you can save money by timing your food shopping trips right. Farmer recommends shopping early in the morning to score discounts on one of the priciest food items on your list — meat.
“Normally, by 8 a.m., the meat department has discounted their meat, and you can grab some great deals,” she said.
Walmart is known for offering great Black Friday sales. In fact, DealNews.com found that it was among the top five retailers with the best deals on Black Friday and the entire week of Thanksgiving. However, there are other times of the year when retailers offers savings, as well.
In particular, July has become a season for merchants to promote Black Friday-like deals, said Slickdeals.net consumer expert Regina Conway. In July of 2015, Walmart hosted a big sale to rival Amazon’s one-day sale for its Prime members, who pay a $99 annual fee for free two-day shipping and other benefits. Amazon has already announced plans to hold the event again, and Conway anticipates that Walmart will do the same. As an added bonus, Walmart doesn’t require any sort of membership fee to take advantage of its deals.
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8. Get $1 Deals
Some of the items you can find at a dollar store can also be purchased at Walmart for $1 or less — and you don’t even have to ask for price matching. For example, Walmart sells personal grooming products such as deodorant and shampoo for about $1. You also can find greeting cards and gift bags for $1, although the selection is smaller than what you’d see at a traditional dollar store.
Ivanovsky keeps a running list on IHeartTheMart.com of Walmart’s current dollar deals.
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9. Get Free Grocery Pickup
Walmart has rolled out a new service in some cities that doesn’t cost a dime to use and can save shoppers a lot of valuable time: grocery pickup. Customers in Atlanta, Nashville, Colorado Springs, Tucson, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Salt Lake City and Ogden can now order their groceries online and then pick them up at select stores in their areas. You can even select a time for your pickup, and an associate will load the groceries into your car.
Follow the above tips on your next Walmart trip, and you will likely be smiling as brightly as the retailer’s trademark logo.