Why Walmart is putting strange towers in stores

The retailer is trying to make your life easier

Don't you hate waiting in long checkout lines, while the person in front of you hunts for coupons, small change and maybe has to write out a check? 

Walmart says those days may soon be over, thanks to new technology it just rolled out in 50 stores nationwide, with more to come.

Shock and awe

You may remember the awe the astronauts felt in the movie "2001: A Space Odysseywhen they gazed up at that giant monolith on the moon.

Some Walmart shoppers had the same look in their eyes when they first saw the Middletown store's new "pickup tower," a sleek, giant tower near the checkout lines. It looks like the world's largest vending machine. 

It's essentially a pickup point for online orders, but instead of a counter, it's a tower loaded with packages.

Montina Brown, after gazing at it up and down, said: "I think it will be pretty good for people who don't have the time to shop."

And that's a lot of millennials, the younger generation of shoppers who grew up shopping on Amazon and don't like to wait in lines.

Wes Halsey, one of those younger shoppers, said: "I think it's a great idea for the fast life we've evolved to."  

How it works

Walmart's Brad Terry demonstrated how you place on order on your phone, in his case, for a bag of cat food.

Workers then grab the item, and load it into the tower.

"Once we put this into the tower, it sends a confirmation email to the customer that it's ready for pickup," Terry said.

You just walk up, scan the bar code they sent you in the email, and within 20 seconds, a door opens and your order is ready.

"There's my cat food," Terry said.

The tower can hold up to 300 small- and mid-sized orders at once (no large items like bicycles and big screen TVs, and no groceries).

Shoppers watching were amazed at how fast the whole process was. You just walk up to the machine with your smartphone and hold it up for scanning.

The tower will soon go up in hundreds of stores, leaving more shoppers looking up toward the sky like those astronauts in "2001."

Just make sure your kid is not the first to try to climb into one, thinking it's like a giant claw machine at Chuck E. Cheese's.

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