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Walgreens Rolls Out New In-Store Feature, and Some Shoppers Truly Hate It: 'It's a Turnoff'

One confused shopper wrote on TikTok, "Why would Walgreens do this? Who on God's green earth thought this was a good idea?"

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Some shoppers looking to pick up a pint of ice cream or frozen pizza at their local Walgreens in recent days were in for a not-so-pleasant surprise when they walked over to the refrigerated aisle. Gone were the glass doors helpfully displaying items inside, replaced instead with iPad-like screens that, among other things, reveal the products alongside paid advertisements.

Developed by startup Cooler Screens, the digital screens rely on a system of motion sensors and cameras to show what's inside the refrigerator/freezer and offer product information, prices, deals and paid advertisements — the biggest draw for participating brands. Cooler Screens currently has roughly 10,000 screens in stores, and, according to the company, the screens are seen by about 90 million shoppers each month.

Naturally, customer reactions haven't been overwhelmingly positive. One confused shopper wrote on TikTok, "Why would Walgreens do this? Who on God's green earth thought this was a good idea?" Another posted on Twitter, "The digital cooler screens at Walgreens made me watch an ad before it allowed me to know which door held the frozen pizzas."

Related: Walgreens Responds After Family Says Children Received COVID-19 Vaccine Instead of Flu Shot

Shopper Henry Brewer, who recently stumbled upon one of the digital screens at a Chicago Walgreens, called the technology "very in-your-face" and "intrusive," saying, "We see advertisements literally everywhere and now I have to go see it on the cooler? It doesn't just seem necessary, and I think it's a turnoff to the consumer when this wasn't a problem."

Along with frustrations over the newly complicated shopping experience (some customers also report screens inaccurately representing products in stock), there are consumer-privacy concerns, some of which have resulted in misinformation and conspiracy theories. But Cooler Screens co-founder and CEO Arsen Avakian claims the tech is "identity blind," with front-facing sensors that anonymously record customer engagement and internally facing cameras that log product inventory.

Related: Walgreens Boots Alliance Slips on Labor Cost Concerns

Unfortunately for those shoppers who'd rather not engage with the technology, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon. Chris Walton, a former vice president at Target who runs the retail blog Omni Talk, told CNN, "There's a big movement in retail right now to create what's called a 'retail media network,' which taps into all the ways brands can interact with that retailer digitally." Kroger, CVS, GetGo convenience stores and Chevron gas stations have begun incorporating the screens, and major household brands including Coke, Pepsi, Nestle, Kraft Heinz and Monster are on board.

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