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Walmart is switching to electronic price tags that “allow employees to change prices as often as every ten seconds”. No one wants this!! No one wants surge pricing on ice cream and price increases on items already in your cart.

Discussion  13 comments

Stephanie A-H

I remember going to Home Depot's "Store of the Future" (basically it's just a regular store north of Atlanta where they try out all the new tech before shipping to the rest of the stores) in the mid-2010s and seeing these types of displays.

The idea there was to rapidly and accurately update prices for sale items and price-match guarantees. Which makes sense for an infrequent purchase like an electric drill - you've probably already done some research and compared prices with other sellers.

No one wants to do this for a potato.

Caroline G.

Planet Money did a great episode about dynamic pricing just a few months ago.

Meg Hourihan

"surge pricing" is disingenuous labeling. "If it’s hot outside, we can raise the price of water and ice cream" is clearly price gouging. And no one is going to leave and drive across town to another store for their water or ice cream, who knows maybe that price rises while they wait at a red light! But further into the article they say that electronic shelf labels have many benefits, and won't likely be used for surge pricing. Guess time will tell.

Nick Vance

These price tags are more common in European stores. They seem to work well there though my experiences are limited to vacation visits as I live in the USA.

I always thought they were mostly to reduce the labor it takes to physically send employees around to swap prices around as well as the physical waste of printing many labels (rather than the suggestion of highly dynamic price fluctuations). But who knows how WallMart will use/abuse this power.

Samantha Bloom

Hmmm not excited about intra-day dynamic pricing, but these electronic price tags are everywhere here in Los Angeles and I quite like them. I assume it’s a big labor savings and it means that the prices are always listed (price tags don’t get lost/fall down/etc).


This is my bridge too far. I saw these at Kohl's once a few years ago and haven't been back since. I just don't trust the price not to change between when i put it in my cart and when i check out. And I don't want to feel like i have to rush through shopping to make sure I get the price I thought. It's not the "digital" aspect per se, it's the "up to 6 times per minute".

If you told me that the on any given day, the electronic price could only go down, and any increases happen when the store is closed that would be fine.

Pete Ashton Edited

"allow employees to change prices" is a weird phrasing. It assumes employees of big chains have autonomy over pricing decisions, as if Wallmart was a worker co-op or something.

Reading past the scary opener it just looks like more automation of human processes.

Colter Mccorkindale

It's not really a technology for surge pricing; it's just efficient inventory management. We use digital price tags at the Park Slope Food Co-op because it saves a TON of time and prevents errors and loss.

Pete Ashton

Especially when wholesale prices are all over the place at the moment thanks to nutso inflation. (At least they are in the UK.)

Michael Beuselinck Edited

Does the co-op change prices while the store is open and people are shopping?


I have some question as others - can prices be changed during shopping hours? That is, is my $19.99 purchase suddenly going to be $23.99 by the time I get to the cashier? Is this the beginning of an era of taking photos of every item's then-current price as you take it from the shelf?

Reply in this thread

Lacey V

I believe brick and mortar stores can’t really change in store prices like that, because they have to charge you whatever price you saw and have no way of knowing how long you’re in the store. Might differ by state though. Mostly they change them overnight once a day, whether they are doing it with paper or electronic tags.

Michael Beuselinck

I smell a lawsuit coming. If the price changes between the time you put your item in the basket, and the time you pay at checkout, then there's a plausible false advertising and unfair business practices claim.

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