Walmart is building a home for grocery-shopping robots next to one of its stores — and it offers a glimpse into the company's automated future

  • Walmart will soon start using automated robotic carts to pick and pack shoppers' online grocery orders. 
  • The company is building a 20,000-square-foot extension to one of its stores in Salem, New Hampshire, that will house the carts and hundreds of products. 
  • The new system is designed to give Walmart employees more time to focus on service and selling, while shifting the more "mundane, repeatable tasks" onto the robots.

Walmart will soon start using robots to pick and pack shoppers' online grocery orders. 

The company is building a 20,000-square-foot extension to one of its stores in Salem, New Hampshire, that will house robotic grocery carts and hundreds of products. 

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5 biggest mistakes shoppers make, according to Walmart employees
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5 biggest mistakes shoppers make, according to Walmart employees

Making assumptions about the services offered at your local store

Walmart does offer product care plans and a trade-in program that allows shoppers to exchange devices for gift cards.

But one Walmart employee of nine years told Business Insider that it was a mistake for customers to just assume "we have an electronics repair facility here."

If you're in doubt, it's best to skip the wild goose chase and try calling ahead.

Failing to plan out your shopping trips

Shopping for a big holiday weekend blowout?

Well, just assume that everyone else is following suit.

An associate of 12 years told Business Insider that it was a mistake to wait "until the last minute to shop," especially when it comes to busier times of the week or year.

The employee added that some shoppers fail to understand that "they aren't the only people that will show up. So, yes, there will be lines at the registers. Plan better — plan early."

A Reddit poster who said they worked in the electronics department at Walmart noted that Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays typically garner the biggest crowds.

Skipping an important return hack

A Walmart store manager told the savings-oriented blog The Krazy Coupon Lady that there's a way to return products ordered online with less hassle.

If you end up ordering an item on Walmart.com that you don't actually want, you can return it through the chain's mobile express returns system.

"You just get a QR code from your Walmart app, bring your item to the store, skip the line, and scan your QR code on the credit card machine," according to The Krazy Coupon Lady.

Being mean to Walmart associates

A Walmart employee of 15 years said that "being mean" to the employees at Walmart is probably the biggest mistake a shopper can make.

"If you are nice to them, they will bend over backwards to help you," the employee told Business Insider.

That means acting courteously and not threatening to "contact management or the home office" when something goes wrong that's outside of the employees' control, according to an associate of 11 years.

"Unfortunately, there is a bad stigma surrounding Walmart employees," former Walmart employee Crystal Linn wrote on Quora.

They added that customers sometimes buy into that bias and treat the associates as "ignorant high school drop-outs."

"I even had a woman ask me once, 'Do you even know what an electric can opener is?' after I showed her where the handheld ones were located," Linn wrote. "Not everyone is like this, of course, but it seems that the large majority have this idea in their mind that anyone that works at Walmart is trashy. The way that people treat you because of that really wears you down."

Forgetting to check for markdowns

Want to save some money on your next Walmart run? Watch out for the prices.

Specifically, keep an eye out for price tags ending in 0 or 1.

According to an interview with a Walmart store manager on The Krazy Coupon Lady, a pricetag ending with a 0 or a 1 denotes a "final markdown price." Meanwhile, the store manager told the blog that prices ending in 5 "are the first markdown price."

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The automated carts will rapidly pick and pack products according to customers' orders, then deliver the goods to one of four stations where Walmart employees will finish assembling the orders. 

"The vast majority of grocery products we offer in-store will be fulfilled through this system, though our personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items," Mark Ibbotson, Walmart US executive vice president of central operations, wrote in a blog post.

Walmart developed the system, which it's calling Alphabot, in partnership with Massachusetts-based Alert Innovation.

 

Ibbotson said the new system is designed to give Walmart employees more time to focus on service and selling while shifting the more "mundane, repeatable tasks" onto the robots.

"Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it," he wrote. "We have a lot to learn about this new technology, and we're excited about the possibilities of how we can use it to make the future of shopping — and working — even better."

Walmart's new program follows Kroger's announcement in May that it is partnering with Ocadoa UK-based online supermarket, that has robots with the ability to pack a 50-item grocery order in a matter of minutes.

As part of the agreement, Ocado will help Kroger build at least 20 of its futuristic, robot-powered warehouses in the US.

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