Walmart Testing Deadly Self-Service Robot


Something very troubling just happened at a suburban Walmart which is testing a new “convenience” machine made in Finland. The bottom line is this:

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Walmart is testing an unsafe package pickup tower that CRUSHED A PICK-UP PACKAGE AND WOULD NOT RELEASE IT.

A month ago or so, Walmart began “upgrading” their checkout stands, replacing human clerks with self-service stations. A surveillance camera linked to a facial recognition system identifies every customer at check-out, a clear privacy violation.

Now, the world’s largest grocery chain is selecting regional Walmarts to test a large orange package pickup towers. These hazardous machines are made in Finland, where it will become obvious that no one checked them for hazardous outcomes to unexpected human behavior.

The large orange monolithic self-service kiosk looks very imposing as it towers over a space reserved specifically for it. An illuminated touch screen or q-code scanner requests only the order number. Within seconds, the pick-up package drops down a shaft onto a metal platform designed to receive it.

The robotic door begins to close after about 10 seconds. Anything below the door becomes trapped and crushed. Unlike a standard garage door, this automated door has no safety release even when scanners indicate that the door is blocked and hasn’t shut completely.

The door keeps trying to close, crushing anything underneath it repeatedly while the lighted display blinks the error message, “Remove object blocking door” – with no way to do so.


The intractable, powerful, downward-closing robotic door could easily pin a person’s arm, hand or fingers, causing excruciating pain and perhaps much worse: loss of a limb or even death from excessive bleeding by the time technical help and medical attention could arrive on the scene.

Even more chilling is this thought: What if an impulsive and curious child poked her or his small head inside the machine to look up to see where the packages come from, only to be trapped by the door, causing decapitation?

In this incident, three Walmart employees were unable to free the package. None of them had received training on the new robotic device. None knew how to open the machine. None was strong enough to lift the robotic door and free the trapped, crushed box. The self-service monolithic machine had no instructions on it. No employee badge had any effect whatsoever on the unspeaking, resolute device.

When the shaken customer left the Walmart store, the crushed package was still wedged under the Jaw of Death on the DIY package pickup tower. Adding insult to potential injury, an email from Walmart was waiting in the customer’s inbox, which indicated that the pickup system had logged a successful package retrieval.

The hapless customer spent well over an hour contacting Walmart’s customer help desk to report the alarming event and get the order delivery status changed to “undelivered.”

A Walmart manager phoned the customer soon after that to report that the robot’s vendor had arrived to free the damaged box – which was now ready for pickup (again).

The truth is that Walmart has a long history of callous disregard for their customers and employees.

For example, Walmart paid out a $65 million legal settlement to ” nearly 100,000 current and former cashiers in California who accused the retailer of violating state law by refusing to provide them with seating while they worked.”

Walmart has been sued for gender discrimination by female employees.

But wait, there’s much more. The website of a certain law firm lists the cases they have won for their clients who have taken issue with Walmart’s unethical and illegal practices:

2000: Walmart settled an action brought by hourly workers in Colorado for $50 million.

2001: …a class action on behalf of 116,000 current and former Walmart employees in California…denied lunch breaks, in violation of state law. A four-month trial in Oakland resulted in a jury award of $172 million, including $115 million in punitive damages. The action was later settled while on appeal.

2006: A Pennsylvania jury awarded $78 million against Walmart over rest breaks and off-the-clock work. The presiding judge subsequently increased that award to $188 million to include damages, interest, and attorneys’ fees. After years of additional argument in state courts concerning the judgment, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Walmart’s appeal.

2008: Walmart reached a $54.25 million settlement in Minnesota, where 56,000 employees alleged denied rest breaks and other state labor law violations. Before the action settled, Walmart was facing potentially much greater costs…[T]he presiding state judge had ruled that Walmart “had violated state laws on rest breaks and other wage matters more than two million times and could. As a result face more than $2 billion in fines.” [emphasis added]

Most of us understand that Walmart and every other capitalistic corporation around the world prioritize profitability. But this new, untested, and dangerous “convenience” self-service package pickup machine is alarming.

Contact Walmart’s corporate headquarters. Tell them that it is irresponsible for them to use their valued customers as human guinea pigs for a new robotic machine which its creators never bothered to test for what happens when it encounters unexpected and unprogrammed human behavior. Pass this WARNING to their family and friends – especially children – before someone loses an arm or a head.

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