Why Walmart May Restore Its Greeters to the Frontlines

Why Walmart May Restore Its Greeters to the Frontlines (ABC News)

You might once again be seeing the bright faces Walmart greeters earlier, just like founder Sam Walton intended.

Walmart is testing a pilot program in a few hundred of its approximately 4,500 stores to increase the store greeters' door presence, in part, to decrease theft, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Three years ago, the biggest private employer moved its greeters further back into the store in what it called "action alley" -- near self-checkout stations -- in order to direct shoppers to open registers and perform other tasks.

"Some stores will literally move greeters to the door," Walmart spokesman Brian Nick told ABC News.

Some of those greeters might check customer receipts as they leave, similar to what Costco does at its warehouses, Nick added.

Over time, Nick pointed out, some U.S. Walmart stores have phased out greeters, and some have done so during certain overnight hours in locations that are open 24 hours.

As part of the pilot program, the company is testing "asset protection customer specialists" who will wear yellow instead of the standard blue uniform at some stores. These staff members would help process returns at the door, perhaps scanning an item and putting a sticker on it to expedite the return process.

Walton introduced greeters in the 1980s to provide a warm welcome to customers and also deter thieves, as he mentioned in his 1992 autobiography, "Sam Walton: Made in America." It's a standard practice at many stores in the retail industry. Last month, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a conference call that "shrink," which describes loss from theft or disorder, was a "key urgent agenda item this year." It cost the company 0.13 percent from its gross profit margin.

According to a statement provided by Nick, Walmart says, “We are making a number of improvements throughout our business by identifying and implementing initiatives that will improve our customers’ experience in our stores and support our efforts to reduce costs so we can pass those savings to our customers. We have identified a select number of stores where we are adding personnel at the door who will greet and assist customers and perform other duties as necessary.”

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