Sam’s Club fixes checkout issue Costco members hate

Costco is hands down the leader among membership-based warehouse club retailers, but it has never tried to be the leader in retail technology advancement. The warehouse club retailer joined the supermarket trend in the mid-2000’s to install self-checkout lanes in its stores only to remove them in 2013 after its CEO said its clerks could do a better job at checkout.

Costco, however, brought back its self-checkout lanes in 2019 to about 125 of its stores, RetailWire reported at the time, and continued adding them over the years.

Related: Costco takes on a problem bigger than retail theft

Costco continues some old analog traditions at its stores, such as having its workers check shoppers’ membership cards as they enter the store to make sure they are members, since only members and those with gift cards are allowed to shop at Costco.

Then, when a member has paid for all of their products, another Costco worker stands at the store exit checking receipts and counting items in a shopper’s cart to make sure an item wasn’t missed at checkout. This exit process tends to create a shopping cart backup sometimes when several shoppers are exiting at the same time.

Walmart’s  (WMT) – Get Free Report membership warehouse retailer Sam’s Club, however, has adopted a customer convenience that Costco  (COST) – Get Free Report has not added to its stores yet. Sam’s Club at CES 2024 in Las Vegas on Jan. 9 rolled out a new technology that will eliminate a big customer inconvenience – waiting in line for a worker to verify a receipt before exiting the store.

Sam’s Club using artificial intelligence for member exit

The warehouse retailer rolled out a first-of-its-kind application of artificial intelligence and computer vision technology that will eliminate queuing at the club’s exit to verify a customer’s receipt and products purchased.

“This is Sam’s Club at its very best, listening to feedback from members, putting their needs at the center of everything we do – and then applying digital innovations to deliver an industry-leading member experience,” Chris Nicholas, CEO of Sam’s Club, said in a statement. “We are constantly looking at ways for Sam’s Club to be the most convenient membership club and will continue to prioritize using technology to provide a truly differentiated and delightful experience for our members.”

Sam’s Club is currently running pilot programs at 10 store locations. The verification process begins after a member completes a payment at a register or Scan & Go checkout, as a combination of computer vision and digital technology installed in the exit area of the store captures images of carts and verifies payment for all items within a member’s basket, the retailer said.

Sam’s Club’s exit receipt verification technology.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club introduces new receipt verification technology

Using AI to speed the process, the retailer said the technology streamlines the member’s exit and allows exit greeters to refocus their time and expertise to assist members’ needs. Sam’s Club will test and enhance the technology through early 2024 and rapidly expand it to the company’s nearly 600 warehouse retail locations by the end of the year.

Sam’s Club boasts that it is the first retailer to deploy the technology at exits and at scale as an extension of how the store uses digital innovation for shoppers with its Scan & Go checkout. Scan & Go allows members to use the Sam’s Club mobile app to capture purchases on-the-go and bypass the traditional checkout line in the club, as well as at the store’s gas station and Café.

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