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Grocery items sit inside a cart at a Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is scheduled to release earnings data on Nov. 15. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Andrew Harrer © 2012 Bloomberg Finance LP

Walmart Brings Back Greeters to Improve Service and Fight Theft

May 04, 2016

They're ba-ack.

Walmart (wmt) announced on Wednesday that it would revive its door-greeter program by mid-summer and deploy staff at store entrances and exits as it looks to improve customer service and fight shoplifting.

At the majority of its nearly 5,000 U.S. stores, Walmart will position a greeter at the entrance, reversing a previous strategy of putting such workers in other parts of the store, including the main shopping aisle. As for the remainder, largely stores deemed to be at greater risk of theft, Walmart will also station a so-called "customer host," a worker who greets customers, but also seeks to prevent shoplifting by checking receipts. The "customer hosts," identifiable by their bright yellow vests, will also carry out other tasks from handling situations where a customer gets hostile to processing returns.

"Greeters are a big part of our company and culture," wrote Mark Ibbotson, executive vice president of central operations for Walmart U.S., in a blog post. "Providing customers with an excellent first impression is part of Walmart’s broader strategy to ensure simpler, more convenient shopping."

Walmart U.S. has seen its customer service scores improve in the last year, and has reported five straight quarters of comparable sales increases (though some of those gains have been modest.) It has achieved that in part by giving workers raises, making sure cash registers are fully staffed at peak times and by improving its fresh food assortment. But the retailer is also grappling with "shrink" — industry parlance for loss of merchandise from error, shoplifting or employee theft. It's a $300 million problem a year, for the retailer.

The retailer is also creating a new position to have an employee oversee the self-checkouts, an area that promises to speed up shopping but is prone to theft.

The store greeter was long part of Walmart's way of doing business, an initiative of founder Sam Walton, who felt a friendly welcome at the entrance would make big-box stores seem more human.

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