My heart was in the right place, even if my head wasn’t. It was getting late, and although we were there to buy groceries for a party at our house the next afternoon, the children’s aisles had been close by. I walked up and down Walmart’s toy aisles with my 6-year-old daughter, looking for activity books and small games she could bring on our upcoming international trip.
Her eyes got big when she saw the toys she has been obsessed with the past few months. There were a bunch of them, and she wanted them. All of them. Every kind. My wife and I tried to shift her attention, but she was having none of it. Her core had gotten hot. The reactor was out of control. She was going full nuclear meltdown in Aisle 9.
There was no way we were even going to start getting groceries in this state. I grabbed my daughter, and we left.
Technology to the Rescue
At home, my wife opened the Walmart app on her phone and started punching in our grocery list. Within 20 minutes, she had our full order placed and scheduled for pickup the next morning. This was the same app she used just prior to our ill-fated trip to return a pair of shoes.
We use the app all the time. You can run a price check from it by scanning a barcode with your phone or pull up your purchase history to remind yourself which salsa you bought last time that was so much better than the others. It’s great.
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Mostly we use it for the Savings Catcher feature. My wife scans in our receipt after every shopping trip, and Walmart automatically gives us money back for items where it found a better price at a competitor. We used to ask for price matching at the checkout, but this has replaced that entirely.
In about three years of using the app, we’ve received $66.37 from the Savings Catcher. That isn’t a lot, but considering we don’t have to go out of our way to look for specific coupons or scour advertising inserts, it’s hard to argue with “free” money.
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What I Give Up to Get That Convenience
Of course, I know it’s not really free. Walmart knows every purchase we’ve made and scanned. It knows our buying habits as well or better than we do. It knows when we pull into a Walmart parking lot, and if we used the features to their fullest, it would be able to tell us whether the items on our shopping list are out of stock at that store. It’s a trade-off: lack of privacy in exchange for convenience and a little bit of cash.
But here’s the thing: Google already knows what’s on the shopping list. Visa knows how much we spent (and is giving us something for that, too). The cellular company knows every turn we took to drive to the store. Walmart can already tie our purchased items to our credit cards. In today’s world, you have to go way out of your way to avoid technology that tracks your life. So, if you’re going to use it, it’s at least nice to get both convenience and savings in one package. That’s something to scream about.
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