Walmart says employee complaints about AI technology are a non-issue
Workers reportedly 'past their breaking point' with tech meant to detect shoplifting
Walmart employees at the company's Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas, say they are "past their breaking point" with the company's artificial intelligence technology used to prevent shoplifting, according to tech magazine Wired.
The employees sent a message to the outlet saying the AI technology Walmart is flawed. Designed by Ireland-based software company Everseen, the tech analyzes security camera footage and helps customers scan items in self-checkout lines.
But Walmart Director of National Media Relations Scott Pope told FOX Business that the complaints are a non-issue, and Everseen's technology has so far worked better than other alternatives.
"We assess our technology regularly, and as evident with the large scale implementation of Everseen across the chain, we have confidence it is currently meeting our standards," Pope said.
He added that the company has "made recent improvements to the system and expect that this technology will improve over time, as all technology does," and the technology Walmart currently has in place "is the best option for the customer."
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The concerned employees sent a video to Wired demonstrating how Everseen's AI technology can apparently fail to alert employees when customers scan two of the same items at once. Their mock-theft cost the store a total of $100 due to flaws in the technology, the video notes.
Everseen can also apparently mistakenly lead to false-positive alerts to employees when customers' innocent behavior is detected as shoplifting, leading to long lines.
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"It's like a noisy tech, a fake AI that just pretends to safeguard," one unnamed employee told Wired.
The technology has also led to employee frustration during the coronavirus pandemic because system complications such as false-positives have forced workers to come in closer contact with customers in order to help address Everseen tech issues, according to Wired.
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The anonymous employee told the outlet that before COVID-19, the system "wasn't ideal -- it was a poor customer experience," but now, "AI is now creating a public health risk."
Pope, however, said that this concern is a stretch because employees can easily ask customers to back up a few feet so they can fix any cash-register issues, and the store also requires employees to wear face masks and conduct enhanced cleaning procedures at checkout.
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Everseen said in a statement that self-checkouts have been beneficial during the COVID-19 crisis.
"Everseen is committed to helping its customers deliver the best possible experience for shoppers and store associates in the complex retail environment forced upon us all by COVID-19. Self-checkouts continue to be an important innovation, and now bring the especially important benefits of a generally contactless shopping experience, avoiding manned-lanes in busy stores with limited staff available," a spokesperson said.