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Countdown On for Wal-Mart's Next EPC Milestone

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Next month, more than 100 of Wal-Mart’s suppliers will begin shipping product cases and pallets bearing electronic product codes (EPCs) to three distribution centers in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

In preparation for heightened interest in the initiative, Wal-Mart has prepared a fact sheet on its Web site for consumers, including the following:

• MYTH #1 -- Everything in the store will be tagged.

FACT -- Wal-Mart is not focusing on item-level tagging. Instead, Wal-Mart is asking suppliers to put EPCs on cases and pallets used to transport these items.

At Sam’s Club locations, where buying bulk items is more common, shelf pricing labels with EPC symbols will complement consumer awareness labels on cases.

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club will use the technology to improve merchandise availability for customers and members, respectively.

• MYTH #2 -- Wal-Mart will track me through EPCs on the products I buy.

FACT -- EPCs contain no information about consumers. They do contain the same code found on a product’s bar code plus a unique identifier to help tell one box of product from another.

• MYTH #4 -- Wal-Mart is secretly already using this technology nationwide.

FACT -- Wal-Mart began an EPC pilot program in seven stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on April 30 of this year. Signs were placed throughout the store to notify customers of the test and Wal-Mart conducted a local media outreach program to ensure customers were aware of the program.

This initiative is now being expanded throughout North Texas and South Central Oklahoma. Specifically, EPCs will be used in 90 Wal-Mart stores and 31 Sam’s Club locations in Texas as well as 16 Wal-Mart stores and five Sam’s Club locations in Oklahoma. Consumer awareness signs will be on the doors of all facilities where EPCs are in use.
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