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Walgreens Shoppers Are Outraged About This Major Change to Stores

A recent update to equipment in the store has left some customers fuming.

Having a trusted pharmacy and drugstore nearby like Walgreens is vital for access to products like over-the-counter medicines, cosmetics, vitamins, and even everyday necessities—not to mention prescription medications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they took on an even more critical role by providing access to vaccines and reliable testing for the virus. But now, Walgreens has made a change to its stores that has left some shoppers outraged. Read on to see why customers are getting angry with the drugstore chain.

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Walgreens customers are angry about new screens added to the store's fridge and freezer doors.

woman with face mask opening freezer door, taking some cold drinks in convenience store during Covid 19 pandemic

Some stores go to great lengths to enhance their customer experience by adding new features, updating the checkout process, or focusing on new products. But according to some angry customers, Walgreens has recently changed its fridge and freezer sections by swapping out clear glass doors with animated digital screens that can make it all but impossible to see what's inside, CNN Business reports.

Customers are angry that they can't easily see what's inside coolers.

woman buying frozen food at supermarket

The latest technological upgrades come from a startup called Cooler Screens, which replaces the clear glass doors in display refrigerators and freezers with an opaque door. The screens aim to make the shopping experience easier for customers by using cameras and sensors to show what's inside, as well as highlighting prices, sales or discounts, and other product information. But instead, shoppers are finding the experience to be more confusing than helpful and are taking to social media to air their grievances, CNN reports.

"The digital cooler screens at Walgreens made me watch an ad before it allowed me to know which door held the frozen pizzas," one frustrated customer said in a tweet.

"Why would Walgreens do this?" another customer bemoaning the new screens posted on TikTok. "Who on God's green earth thought this was a good idea?"

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The technology company says the new screens offer plenty of benefits for stores.

A man looking through a cooler or freezer door while shopping in the refrigerated or frozen food section in a store

However, Cooler Screens isn't just limited to Walgreens. In June, the company said it was ramping up its rollout that COVID-19 had delayed to clients such as Walmart, CVS, and Kroger, AdWeek reports. The company's biggest initial expansion deal with Walgreens expected to see screens installed in 2,500 locations, with 1,400 set up by the end of last year. Overall, the roughly 10,000 screens that have already been installed in a variety of stores are viewed by more than 90 million customers each month, the company tells CNN.

Cooler Screens says the updated doors can be beneficial to stores by helping to keep track of inventory and saving energy by allowing customers to shop with the doors closed. They can also help customers with poor eyesight find the product they're looking for, a rep for the company told Slate in 2019.

And while there have been some concerns over privacy, CNN reports, a spokesperson for Cooler Screens told Best Life, "Cooler Screens does not collect, capture or store any data that could be linked to an individual consumer. Cooler Screens doors are identity blind with optical sensors that only anonymously detect motion, such as dwell time in front of a screen, door-opens, detect motion likely to be a consumer, dwell time in front of a screen (based on motion), physical interaction with on-shelf products and empty shelves."

Customers are still confused by how the technology is supposed to work.

supermarket freezer case full of frozen pizzas
Shutterstock/Ben Harding

While many argue that the focused ads can help retail stores bring in more money from big brands, many customers are still confused by the change. Some shoppers attempt to use the displays as touch screens, while others assume they're voice-activated. And there are still reports from some shoppers that the screens do not accurately display items that are out of stock, per CNN.

Cooler Screens maintains that this should not be an issue. "Inventory shortages have been very common during the pandemic and are a source of consumer frustration. Cooler Screens posts a 'more coming soon' message on the cooler screen to alert customers and employees when a product is not in stock on the shelf," the spokesperson told Best Life. "We cannot control retailers' restocking schedules, product placement errors or alleviate current supply chain issues and shortages that are delaying product deliveries. The display feed for Cooler Screens comes from the retailers, and they have the ability to update the feed and the display will reflect the new information within 10 minutes."

One expert argues that the change may be jarring for people who aren't looking to be bombarded with product placement. "People really appreciate their routines. They're not always seeking excitement," Julio Sevilla, PhD, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Georgia who studies consumer behavior, told CNN.

Others complain that it needlessly complicates a quick trip to the store. "We see advertisements literally everywhere, and now I have to go see it on the cooler?" Henry Brewer, a Walgreens customer in Chicago who has seen the technology, told CNN. He added that the screens felt "very in-your-face" and "intrusive" while shopping. "It doesn't just seem necessary, and I think it's a turnoff to the consumer when this wasn't a problem."

In a statement to Best Life, a spokesperson for Cooler Screens maintained that the majority of customers appreciate the new technology. "Cooler Screens strives to create a better shopping experience than what is typically available at brick-and-mortar retailers and bridges the gap between shopping online and in-person by bringing what consumers like most about online shopping–pictures, information and relevant promotions–directly to a store's cooler doors and other retail surfaces," the spokesperson said. "This has been substantiated by extensive first- and third-party quantitative research on samples that exceeded tens of thousands of consumers. This research confirmed that more than 90% prefer Cooler Screens over traditional glass cooler doors."

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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