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Fact Check: Are Walmart and Target Charging Shoppers to Use Self-Checkout?

Both major retailers recently made changes to self-service options.

If you feel like you're struggling to keep up with rising prices, you're not alone: According to Northwestern Mutual's 2024 Planning & Progress survey, one-third of Americans don't feel financially secure right now. The cost of living continues to soar, and at the grocery store, the total at the bottom of the receipt always seems to be ticking up. With that in mind, the idea of paying even more to check out sounds like a practical joke. However, reports are circulating online that stores like Walmart and Target are doing just that, and charging shoppers to use self-checkout. Read on to find out where these claims came from, and if there's any truth to them.

RELATED: Walmart and Target Anti-Theft Measures Could Be "Final Nail in the Coffin," Shoppers Say.

Claims about needing to pay to access self-checkout are circulating online.


What is this reality we are living in. Walmart will be first. Target after that.

♬ original sound – Jack Mac

Several shoppers recently took to social media to air concerns about retailers' self-checkout policies. In one viral TikTok videoJack McGuire, a blogger and social media personality with Barstool Sports (known as "Jack Mac"), alleges that you'll soon need a subscription to use self-checkout.

"I want you to imagine a world where you have to pay a subscription fee to use self-checkout devices at major retailers across the country," McGuire says in the video. "Now, I want you to stop imagining it because it is about to be a reality across this country. How? Walmart self-checkout may be changing soon."

McGuire goes on to quote other social media posts stating that both Walmart and Target, as well as other retailers, are "set to begin annual subscription fees to use self-checkout."

"I always try to get to the bottom of these self-checkout machines—what was the motive?" he asks. "I thought it was to put Americans out of jobs, but no, they wanna start charging you. That's right, you—the person that's watching this—to do work. Not only do we not make any money, we are now charged to spend money."

The blogger says that "somebody has to step up" to stop the proliferation of subscription services, which people also pay for to watch their favorite shows.

"They ruined TV with the subscription services … and now they are charging us to check out? What's next? What are they gonna charge [for] next? Oxygen?" McGuire jokes.

RELATED: These Are All the Walmart Locations Closing in 2024.

Walmart is limiting access to some self-checkout lanes, but not all.

walmart self-checkout sign
Copyright u/tattedpizza / Reddit

As Best Life previously reported, some Walmart stores put up signage in late February to inform shoppers that certain self-checkout lanes were limited to Walmart+ members and Spark delivery drivers. However, the general public still has access to self-checkout, with no need to shell out for a membership, USA Today reported.

Speaking with Business Insider earlier this month, Walmart spokesperson Joe Pennington said the designation of specific lanes as member and driver-exclusive is not a company-wide initiative, and managers of individual stores can decide the best strategy for their customers.

Redditors were quick to dub the move a ploy to entice people to subscribe to Walmart+. However, Pennington denied these claims, and told BI that locations are testing out "different checkout staffing options" based on "customer and associate feedback, shopping patterns, and business needs."

When Best Life reached out to Walmart for comment, Pennington directed us to a VERIFY article rebuking claims that Walmart and Target would be charging customers to use self-checkout.

RELATED: Bought Meat or Fruit From Walmart? You May Be Eligible for Up to $500.

Shopper concerns aren't completely unwarranted.

walmart self-checkout lane closed
ZikG / Shutterstock

While Walmart isn't explicitly charging shoppers to use self-checkout, general customers might not always be able to use these kiosks.

Kelsey Bohl, another Walmart spokesperson, told USA Today that stores have the option to "adjust the use of staffed checkouts and self-checkouts" depending on how busy it is. As such, they may shut down self-checkout lanes during slower hours of the day, and switch to more cashier-manned lanes.

However, if your store has lanes reserved for Walmart+ members and Spark drivers, those will stay open even when the other self-checkout lanes close.

So, if general lanes are closed and you don't have Walmart+, you may be out of luck.

Target's policy is a bit clearer.

target self-checkout
Tada Images / Shutterstock

Target recently made headlines for adjustments to its self-checkout policies, but the company isn't charging customers to use them, company spokesperson Loni Monroe told Best Life.

In a March 14 press release, the company outlined changes to self-service options, including the new "Express Self-Checkout," which is limited to orders of 10 items or less. Target will also be opening more traditional lanes staffed by cashiers, per the press release.

Similar to Walmart, Target is giving store managers more flexibility with self-checkout lanes, allowing them to "set self-checkout hours that are right for their store." These hours will vary from store to store, but Target says that Express Self-Checkout will be open "during the busiest shopping times."

Target has several new initiatives in the work, having announced its new Target Circle 360 subscription service earlier this month. While Target Circle 360 offers perks like same-day delivery and free two-day shipping, the press release announcing the service doesn't note any self-checkout benefits or exclusive access to certain lanes like Walmart+ members have.

Best Life reached out to Target for comment, and will update the story with its response.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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