By Larry Teren
If Walmart has their way, it won’t be long before you see the elderly greeter at your favorite Walmart store replaced by a computer scanning device. What- the elderly greeter has been laid off? Yeah, I know- health insurance costs too much. Don’t worry, the old geezer is eligible for Medicare. Anyway, you take out of your wallet or purse your new Walmart customer identification card and slide it through the scanner. A message displays on a viewing screen thanking you for acknowledging your visit to the store. The computer knows who you are and your address. This becomes important as you will see.
The scanner terminal reports back to the main Walmart computer system to check if there are any very recent website orders that need to be shipped to customers in your neighborhood. If so, the computer will inform you of such with an offer to have you drop the merchandise off to the nearby online shopper. If you agree, based on a calculated cost saving to Walmart, they will offer you a discounted
voucher to be used immediately or possibly within a reasonable expiration period.
Why is Walmart contemplating this and will it work? Walmart is looking for a way to outdo Amazon and Ebay with Internet sales. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Walmart has been losing business. A good deal has to do with certain geographical areas not getting enough merchandise in the store. Customers get frustrated and take the business elsewhere where the stock is adequate. I have not noticed it at the Walmart I frequent. I do notice, though, that there is a shrinkage of checkout register staff compared to two years ago. Walmart claims that they have not reduced staff because of health insurance cost concerns.
Walmart believes that they have one asset over Amazon and Ebay- they actually have inventory as opposed to the other retail and wholesale giants who mostly drop ship through a third party. The thing is that the other two companies have a protocol in place to make sure that the customer gets their product in a reasonable time. Walmart is still trying to figure this out which is where the customer shared delivery concept comes in.
Time out- Drop shipping is not always so fast a delivery method either. I often wait from eight to ten days to receive a book I purchase through an Amazon trading partner. Okay- time in.
What needs to be worked out is the insurance coverage for both Walmart and the amateur delivery person among other legalities. After all, the in-store customer is not licensed to deliver merchandise. But if this works out, it opens up a whole new way for companies to reduce expense and improve customer service.
I can just imagine the Chicago Tribune offering a subscriber a discount if he or she promises to read the newspaper in the morning by, let’s say, 11:00am. They make sure they don’t get it dirty, and drop it off to the another apartment in the same condo building. One newspaper and two customer subscriptions.
Or you buy a vacation home in Arizona but you only use it two designated months a year. Three or four others buy the same home and use it for their designated times. Wow, this is a great idea. I think I’ll call it time-share vacationing. What? Oh, never mind.
Baby boomers remember the television commercial campaign that suggested that when E.F. Hutton speaks, we listen. You remember, E F Hutton, right? Oh, well. Okay, so maybe now it is when Walmart speaks, we listen. Hey, if it will fit in the trunk of my car, I’m game. I like the idea of getting a discount for Twizzlers.