Kroger and Walgreens Shoppers Say "Evil" New Ads Make Shopping Impossible
The "upgraded" experience hasn't been well-received.
If you shop at major chains, it can feel like every few months, the experience is different. First came self-checkout, then delivery services, and now, some retailers are even rolling out updated shopping carts. But the latest change, which has taken place at both Walgreens and Kroger, looks particularly futuristic. Picture this: Instead of a clear glass door in the freezer and refrigerator aisles, there's an opaque screen that showcases the items inside—and, occasionally, plays an advertisement. Customers have had much to say about this change and how it impacts their ability to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible. Read on to learn more about the update and why some people are calling the ads "evil."
Kroger and Walgreens show ads on cooler doors.
Visit your local Kroger or Walgreens, and you might find something strange in the freezer and refrigerator aisle. At some locations, the stores have replaced the clear glass with digital screens that you cannot see through. The screens show the items that are inside the cooler, as well as relevant information like prices and sales. The company behind the ads is Cooler Screens, and it was founded by former Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson.
"It brings what consumers love most about their online shopping experience—pictures, information and promotions—directly to the store's cooler doors and surfaces," writes Cooler Screens on its website. "You no longer have to open the door and sort through products to see what's behind the door, what's in stock or what's on sale."
However, many customers take issue with the fact that the screens also play ads. According to Insider, Cooler Doors uses cameras and other sensors to figure out details about a shopper as they pass and show ads tailored to them. If an ad is playing when you stroll over to a door, you'll have to wait for it to end—or open the door—to see what's inside the cooler.
TikTok users say the screens make shopping a pain.
Some TikTok users have pointed out that the old doors worked perfectly fine. "Glass is pretty efficient at being see-through," said user @trevercarreon in a video from 2021.
In a video from September, user @cinema_singularity put the ads on blast. "You just have to wait for the ad to be done, just so you can see which drinks to get. We didn't need this," he says. "We had glass. It was fine! You could see the drinks; you could see if they were out of the drink."
In response to people who thought the doors were a waste of money, @trevercarreon said: "You gotta throw capitalism into the mix and remember that when a company spends millions of dollars on something that seems benign and pointless, generally that thing is usually really evil."
Being targeted by ads while shopping is uncomfortable for many.
The concept of hidden cameras at the grocery store and pharmacy triggered alarm bells for some. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the cameras can help the screens serve ads to consumers based on variables such as the approximate age the technology believes they are, their gender, and even the weather.
So, for example, a soup company might choose to advertise on a snow day, and a college-aged man might get an advertisement for beer. The same report notes that the cameras can also determine which items a shopper picked up and give advertisers insights into the effectiveness of their ad.
"What's appropriate targeting and what's potentially on the edge of being a bit intrusive," Jane Ostler, global head of media at the insights division of the research company Kantar, told the Wall Street Journal of the ads.
Kroger and Walgreens haven't said much about the ads.
As of press time, Walgreens had not been able to provide a comment on its Cooler Screens. A representative from Kroger said the company was still in the early stages with the screens and had nothing to report just yet.
In June, Cooler Screens filed a $200 million lawsuit against Walgreens, claiming it backed out of an agreement to roll out more screens. Walgreens responded: "We are disappointed that Cooler Screens is falsely claiming that anything other than their failure to perform was the basis for the termination of our contractual relationship," according to Winsight Grocery Business.
In a statement to Best Life, Cooler Screens previously said it has proof to back up its claims of an improved shopping experience. "This has been substantiated by extensive first- and third-party quantitative research on samples that exceeded tens of thousands of consumers," they said. "This research confirmed that more than 90% prefer Cooler Screens over traditional glass cooler doors."
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