Last night I read an article in Direct Marketing News which literally made me LOL (for those not familiar with online acronyms, that’s laugh out loud – LOL for short).

Walmart is exploring installing facial recognition software to install in their stores to assess how happy their customers are with their shopping experience.

Are you laughing yet?

Because I am.

First of all, shopping at Walmart is never a happy experience. It’s mostly neutral with a bit of stress and exhaustion thrown into the mix. I shop weekly at Walmart for groceries (don’t just; it’s one of only two choices in my tiny rural town). I feel as if I have walked several miles by the time I have found a cart without wonky wheels that spins me in circles, passed the endless center aisle displays of sugar and fat laden junk food, and reached my destination aisle.

Half the time, the shelves look as if a tornado has cruised through, and the other half of the time they’ve moved what I know should be in that aisle to somewhere else in the store and I spend an awful amount of time playing hide-and-seek with the laundry detergent or whatever it is that I want.

According to Inc., Walmart’s facial recognition software will assess your happiness level as you search for the last non-crushed box of graham crackers and if it detects you aren’t ecstatic will staff up accordingly.

As if lack of staff makes anyone unhappy at Walmart.

Listen, Walmart, if you really want to make customers happy and not creeped out that big brother is watching them with facial recognition software – which may or may not violate several rights to privacy I have, I’m not clear on that yet – let’s get a few things straight.

There are stores people shop at for pleasure and stores people shop at for necessity. You fall into the latter category. Therefore, few people are going to grin from ear to ear when they look at, say, the crumpled blouses on the floor in the clothing aisle or the whirlwind of jumbled cans in the soup aisle.

The expression of unhappiness on my face may be caused by a thousand things outside of a store’s control. I may have just had an argument with my spouse and stomped off to do the grocery shopping. I may have realized I am almost out of gas and have to stop for more if I want to make it home. My shoes may hurt because they’re pinching my feet. Who knows? Who cares? Who made it your prerogative to assess my happiness, anyway?

There are four places where staffing matters in any given Walmart and you are already failing miserably in most of them. So fix these before buying happiness software, please:

  1. Registers. Thankfully, our Walmart in Farmville, Virginia, has some of the nicest cashiers around. But for goodness sake, OPEN MORE REGISTERS.
  2. Fabric counter. Anytime I’ve wanted to purchase fabric, it’s an ordeal. I wait. And wait. And then a clueless person shows up who can’t stop to cut my fabric because he or she is a manager or something. If you’re going to have a fabric counter, have a button or something customers can press to call help over to cut their yards of felt or whatever.
  3. Online order pickup. Oh, what a nightmare. What an awful, time wasting, soul sucking nightmare. I order online. It ships to the store. I then wait at an empty counter for 15 – 20 minutes while employees run by on their way to jolly old breaktime and I grow gray and stooped and old waiting to pick up my water filter or whatever I ordered online. Then, someone does show up, and THEY CAN’T FIND THE THING IN THE BACKSTOCK. One time, they lost an archery target on us. Let that sink in. A freaking three foot by three foot archery target box was somehow hiding itself in the backstock area. Fix this, please.
  4. Stocking shelves. See above – my comment on shelves that look like a tornado breezed through them once, twice, or three times. Restock. Stock again. Then, check your stock. Because you can’t sell what you don’t have.


Do you know what these four areas have in common? Low tech, low touch solutions.

I’m all for high tech. I love high tech. I love technology in all of its wonderful forms. But the area where Walmart and many other ‘big box’ stores needs to improve is not in their use of technology but in their use of people or the current staff and resources they have on hand. Scanning my scowl won’t make a difference.

Writer Jeanne Grunert


About the Author

Jeanne Grunert is the President of Seven Oaks Consulting, a company focused on making customers smile (but not through facial recognition). She helps marketing agencies, publishing companies, and technology businesses with client-centered marketing strategies and content marketing that helps them acquire, retain, and create loyal customers. Visit Seven Oaks Consulting or Jeanne’s Amazon Author Page for her fiction and nonfiction books.