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Digital screens are covering cooler doors at stores like Kroger and Walgreens, and they're driving TikTokers nuts

Alex Bitter   

Digital screens are covering cooler doors at stores like Kroger and Walgreens, and they're driving TikTokers nuts
  • Retailers like Kroger and Walgreens are installing screens on cooler doors to display ads.
  • But some customers say the screens make it harder to shop and long for old-fashioned glass doors.

Big screens are taking over doors in the frozen and refrigerated food sections at retailers like Kroger and Walgreens. But customers on TikTok are pointing out a problem: They make finding items on your shopping list harder.

The screens have popped up in stores over the last couple of years. Many are created and installed by Cooler Screens, a company founded by a former Walgreens CEO.

Cooler Screens can update inventory in real-time, show ads to customers, and even use a camera and other sensors to figure out details about a shopper as they pass by and show ads tailored to them, the company has said. Cooler Screens says it plans to reach 200 million customers with its digital doors by the end of this year.

But some shoppers think plain old glass doors worked just fine.

TikTok user cinema_singularity said that he doesn't like waiting for an ad to finish playing in order to see what's actually in the coolers and how much everything is, he said in a video posted to TikTok earlier this month.

@cinema_singularity #walgreens #walgreensdeals #walgreensfinds #walgreenshaul #coolerscreens #drinks #beverages #soda #juice #greenscreen ♬ original sound - Mike

"You just have to wait for the ad to be done, just so you can see which drinks to get," he says in the video.

"We didn't need this," he adds. "We had glass. It was fine!"

"Glass is pretty efficient at being see-through," user trevercarreon said in a video posted in 2021.

@trevercarreon #stitch with @kaijucantdie #walgreens is getting really #orwellian #1984 #targetedadvertising #snowcrash #commentary #thefutureisnow ♬ original sound - trevercarreon

The screens allow advertisers to target customers with ads for specific products, trevercarreon says in the video.

For example, he quotes a Wall Street Journal story, citing a marketing manager at MillerCoors saying that the screens could help the beer maker sell more beverages at drugstores like CVS and Walgreens.

"Because if Americans aren't buying alcohol at their medicine stores, advertisers aren't doing their f***ing jobs," he says in the video.

User donwitmadness also took issue with the ads in a video posted this month and filmed at a Kroger store.

@donwitmadness ♬ original sound - Don

"You can't just look through the glass door and find what you want," he says, walking down an aisle of cooler screens as they alternate between ads and inventory. "You've got to sit through a five-second ad break."

Walgreens did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the TikTok videos from Insider.

"We don't have a relationship with this group anymore," a CVS spokesperson told Insider. "We tested them in a very small number of stores in the past, but no longer have them in any locations."

@pjhackman That’s one way not to sell goods…☺️@Walgreens #walgreens #oops #coolerscreens ♬ original sound - pjhackman

When Cooler Screens was asked for comment, a spokesperson noted the ongoing lawsuit it filed against Walgreens for breach of contract in June after Walgreens halted a rollout of the screens.

A Walgreens spokesperson said: "Customer experience is a top priority for Walgreens, and we terminated our contract with Cooler Screens earlier this year due to their failure to meet contractual obligations."

Cooler Screens referenced surveys showing positive consumer opinions of the company's products but did not immediately provide Insider with details of the survey such as their exact results, who conducted them, and how many consumers were surveyed.

User pjhackman pointed out a more basic problem with the screens. A 2022 video he posted shows one screen that isn't displaying any of the food inside. Instead, there's just a notice telling customers that the screen is out-of-order.

A quick opening of the cooler reveals a variety of frozen food inside, however, from corn dogs to burgers.

Have you encountered digital cooler screens while shopping? Let us know what you think. Reach this reporter at abitter@insider.com


September 18, 2023: This story has been updated with comment from CVS and Cooler Screens.

September 19, 2023: This story has been updated with comment from Walgreens and additional information on the Cooler Screens breach of contract lawsuit against Walgreens.


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