“It’s supposed to be ‘walk in,’ not ‘drag out,’” said one customer.
Photo by Julia Wong
Starting this fall, UC San Diego introduced a new way to shop for groceries: Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology. This technology, which has been implemented in the Sixth, Seventh, and Roger’s markets, allows customers to scan their payment card, grab what they need, and defeat Amazon Alexa in a verbal game of rock, paper, scissors to unlock the exit door. HDH says that this method will reduce wait times by eliminating cash registers and cashiers. However, following students’ criticisms, HDH has also implemented “Just Walk In” technology to get students to come back to what one student called “an environment somehow more hostile than the markets were before.”
Students reported a wide range of issues with the Just Walk Out technology, which employs a battalion of tiny laboratory mice on loan from the UCSD Department of Medical Research to analyze motion sensors and charge customers retroactively. “I was charged for 15 half-gallons of unpasteurized whole milk despite only purchasing 12,” first-year student Locke Tows shared. “I reported this through the app, and the next morning I found mouse poison scattered outside my dorm room.” Tows reported that this experience has “shaken [him] thoroughly.”
Another customer stated, “I got so close to being able to leave a store that previously had no barriers to exiting, except Alexa beat me best of three in rock, paper, scissors.” He reported that he used to support the new technology, but all it took was “one humiliating children’s game” to get him to change his mind. “Instead of allowing me to walk out, Alexa announced to everyone in the store, ‘This idiot can’t even figure out rock, paper, scissors,’” he said. “Two Amazon delivery drivers wearing jorts had to open the door and escort me out in shame.” He stated that he would rather show a physical person his cart and give them his money “instead of all this crap.”
In response to what one behaviorist called “classic negative conditioning,” UCSD introduced new Temu technology Just Walk In to counteract the effects of Just Walk Out. Just Walk In is described by Temu as a “more welcoming” program, including 3% discounts on all items that end with the letter “z”, complimentary hot face towels upon arrival, and a walk-in student loan forgiveness booth. Additionally, the markets’ loud music has been replaced with nursery rhymes and Disney original songs to appeal to “students’ innate desire for childhood comfort.”
“I’m so glad the Just Walk In policy was implemented,” first-year student Insa Cure said. “The vibes were like… off, when they were telling us to ‘just walk out.’ Like do you not want me here? Why do you want me to leave so badly?” Now, students like Cure report feeling safer and more at home when visiting the markets. They still scan in and walk out without paying at a cash register, but now they can do so without having to be a three-time rock, paper, scissors world champion.
“They also kept a feature from before that I really liked,” third-year student Frida Loder said. She prefers to cling onto other shoppers “like a baby koala on its mother” to avoid scanning her own card. “I’ll stuff a couple of jugs of milk under each arm and just hold on for dear life. If the mice can’t see that I picked them up, they can’t charge me. It’s like getting a 100% discount.” Another student recalled their experience, saying, “I got my student loans forgiven, and I only had to pay $9 for a box of cereal!”