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Walmart to accept returns—at the front door

Walmart is taking a new approach to ease one of shoppers’ biggest pain points: the returns and refunds process.

In the near future, employees called “customer hosts” will personally process shopper returns at the front door of brick-and-mortar stores. Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart US, briefly announced this new service during comments he made at the UBS Global Consumer and Retail Conference on March 6.

“You're soon going to be able to do a refund right at the front door of the Walmart store,” said Foran. “We're not going to ask you to go to the service desk.”

Foran said that the customer hosts will be equipped with technology to manage refunds, including providing customers with cash, at the front door. The cash will not come out of Walmart’s self-checkout terminals.

Foran did not provide a specific timeline of when the retailer will begin processing refunds in this manner, or exactly how the technology will work. However, his commentary does provide more insight into what type of services Walmart wants its customer hosts to provide.

Walmart has been piloting the customer host position since 2016, as an evolution of its people greeter role. In addition to greeting shoppers and bidding them farewell, as people greeters have primarily done, customer hosts must also perform activities such as scanning receipts and checking shopping carts.

The retailer also has previously indicated that handling customer refunds would be part of the customer host duties. Foran’s comments mark the first detailed public explanation of how customer hosts will manage refunds.

If they will be accepting customer refunds at the front door and bringing them into the store, it may be at least one reason Walmart has reportedly told people greeters they would need to be able to lift 25-lb. packages to be considered for customer host positions. However, in a note sent to all Walmart stores, Foran said the company will look into the situations of disabled and elderly greeters on an individual basis and make every effort to keep them employed at Walmart.
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