Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns.

Starting next month, the retailer will place removable “smart tags” on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner. Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally stocked and inventory tightly watched. If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart’s more than 3,750 U.S. stores.

But the company’s latest attempt to use its influence—executives call it the start of a “next-generation Wal-Mart”—has privacy advocates raising questions.

While the tags can be removed from clothing and packages, they can’t be turned off, and they are trackable. Some privacy advocates hypothesize that unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers’ homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.

  1. BL 22 says:

    Ohh, mommy! Make the bad ID Tags go away!!!

  2. GetSmart says:

    Just think, if we had RFID tags years ago, they could find Jimmy Hoffa.

  3. chuck says:

    Since the tags can be removed, here’s my suggestion: collect all the tags together. When you have several 100, put them all in a bag, go to Wal-Mart and walk around for a while.

    The security and inventory system will go nuts trying to find someone walking around with 100 pairs of underwear!!

  4. Benjamin says:

    #15 Virtually all commercial DVD cases have these ‘stickers’, which are the same RFID tags Walmart is planning to use. So, the MPAA just needs some souped-up readers and they can start scanning neighborhoods.”

    Not true. The security stickers in DVDs are not RFID chips, but they look similar. Even so, I peel them out of my DVDs and drop them on the floor sticky side up in the aisle at Best Buy. Someone steps on them and hilarity begins. Besides, that guy who is just standing there at the front doesn’t do that much work anyway.

    #19 Dallas said, “I don’t do Chinese outlets like Walmart.”

    Where on Earth do you shop where you can find something that is not made in China? Even high end department stores get products mainly from Asia.

  5. ECA says:

    you wear this clothing into the store..
    It tracks you as you wonder the store and goto a Checkout..
    It matches you to you CREDIT CARD..

    For all the money spent on SECURITY, do you think they could drop prices ANOTHER 10%?

  6. Patrick H. says:

    My understanding is that most (if not all) RFID tags just return a unique ID which is then associated with an entry in a database where the related information is contained. So the idea of scanning someones garage to see what they bought seems unlikely unless you have access to Wal-Mart’s database or Wal-Mart plan to program every tag with the details for each item.

  7. birddog says:

    #10 I asked them the same question when I worked for them. They have a great computer system but will not let it track the stock for reorder they wait till the shelf is bare and then scan it with a reader, then order.Makes no sense.

    #14 Reorder is or was, when I was there in the hands of the workers don’t know why.

  8. 1911 says:

    #19 What the fuck are you typing on?

  9. Dallas says:

    #28 A fucking typewriter!

  10. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    Benjamin…the rectangular thing is security, a bimetallic magnetic device. The 1.5-inch square one is an rfid tag.

  11. ECA says:

    The problem I see here is the Word they are using..


  12. Cap'nKangaroo says:

    From shopping for jeans and underwear at Wally World, my educated guess is that the RFID will be used more to straighten out the shelves than for ordering. You have to search thru all sizes in the hope of finding the size you want. And I don’t blame the store personnel. I have seen too many customers pick something up, walk 5 ft and then decide they don’t want it and put it onto the nearest shelve. Or maybe just drop it on the floor and walk away.

    Also, “unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers’ homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.” They can already do this by going thru your garbage by hand or just pick it up and take it with them. There is no expectation of privacy for garbage placed on the curb for pick-up. Have we learned nothing from shows like “Law & Order” and “CSI”?

  13. Glenn E. says:

    Have jeans become so costly as to justify such a high tech means of tracking. What’s wrong with using the old UPC thingy, for inventory? That’s what they use to use. I’m guessing the RFIDs are for tracking the garments, bundled up in boxes, during shipping. And stop these organized shoplifting gangs. Not for point of sale tracking. Who would care what jeans you wore? Paranoid propaganda.

  14. ECA says:

    Added security, ADDED PRICE..
    you are paying for it..and they Blame the CROOKS for stealing them…
    If they lowered the price(cut all the security) you could PROBABLY cut 25% off the price..NOT worth stealing..

    I worked at fred meyer, and a notice came thru..
    Due to theft of their product LEVI’s was requesting us to DOUBLE the prices. Fred meyer did. MORE money, MORE security, MORE profit.

  15. scooter says:

    All that is needed to disable the tag is a pair of scissors. Just more FUD spread around. And what criminal in his right mind is going to drive by houses with an RFID reader? If they become that common, won’t they be in everyone’s garbage? What good is that going to do to a criminal?

  16. ECA says:

    I can see this being used to monitor Persons IN THE STORE. WHILE/BEFORE purchase.

    Those groups that HIT AND RUN with 100 pair of clothing, will be more restricted.(yes they used to do this ALLOT)(Levis in Russia sell for over $200 a pair)
    With this setup, they could Sense a person Picking up ?? pairs of pants, and heading towards the door.

    But, as i mentioned..and have said about Piracy.. LOWER prices make it NOT WORTH the robbery/theft.

  17. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    #26 – The Universal Product Code has a manufacturer’s number on the left and a model number on the right. It is the same for all makes across all retail stores. The stores might be using a SKU, though. What’s hard about making an EPC that does the same thing at the UPC?

    I heard Wal-Mart has over $1 billion in theft a year.

    Here’s a scenario: An item is purchased at a register and scanned. A person walks through the exit and is scanned by the EPC reader. If the scan at the door matches that of a purchased item, then O. K. – Else an alarm sounds. (Last 3 sentences read like lines of pseudocode.)

    These scanners will probably be used also at entry and exit points for employees.