Walmart has 'sensory-friendly' hours

@ellenwitharthritis/TikTok Deutschlandreform/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘I wish they did this at mine’: Walmart now has ‘sensory-friendly’ shopping hours. Viewers say it’s a game-changer

'More places need to do this.'


Jack Alban


Posted on Jul 23, 2023

If you hate the noise of music blasting through loudspeakers as you cook under harsh fluorescent lighting while you’re shopping, then you may be interested to hear that Walmart is trying to change that.

At least, for a few hours a week in “most” of its stores. A TikToker named Ellen (@ellenwithathritis) posted a video where she showed off a sign her husband came across while shopping at a Walmart location.

@ellenwitharthritis #greenscreen @walmart #walmart #sensoryhours #sensoryoverload #disabilitytiktok ♬ original sound – Ellen

In the clip, Ellen shares a green screen of the photo her husband took at the Walmart while she speaks, “So look what my husband just sent me from his trip to Walmart this morning.”

She then moves from the center line of the picture, revealing a sign that reads, “Join us for Sensory-Friendly Hours.”

The sign continues, “Every Saturday between July 8 – August 26 at 8 – 10am during these hours you’ll experience a calm shopping environment.”

Ellen’s husband probably must’ve been curious to know what the sign meant by a “calm” environment for customers because she continues, “He asked somebody or looked it up and apparently they dim the lights. They turn off radio, TVs, so it’s like dimmer, not as loud.”

“I’m very, very interested in this,” Ellen says. “Does anybody know more? Can anybody like stitch this and tell me more?”

Walmart delineated its reasoning for offering this type of shopping experience to its customers in a July 6th back-to-school press release. The chain states that the intention behind the “sensory-friendly hours” is to help create “a more inclusive shopping experience.”

The statement reads, “We are striving every day to create a culture where everyone feels they belong. This year, Walmart is taking steps toward creating a quieter shopping environment that’s more enjoyable for customers who live with sensory disabilities. Our sensory-friendly hours will take place Saturdays in July and throughout August from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in most stores. For areas that start school after Labor Day, sensory-friendly hours will begin July 22.”

Customers who had been shopping online are expressing just how much they appreciate the chain for implementing this new experience. One Redditor @darthnater33 penned, “Anyone else really like these sensory friendly hours?? I like the quiet. Also I don’t have to hear all the same songs a lot and listen to these dumba*s talk shows with a bunch of ‘callers’ calling to kiss Walmart’s as*. I wish they would do that more often.”

In another post uploaded to the site’s r/autism sub, one user snapped a photo of the same sign Ellen referenced in her TikTok. One of the top comments remarked that they would “exclusively” go to a store just because it doesn’t blare crumby music through its speakers. And judging from posts uploaded by Walmart employees, it seems they prefer to work in this type of environment as well.

Some TikTokers who responded to Ellen’s post shared some of the potential issues that may arise from the chain’s sensory-friendly hours. One person believed that the times for this experience could’ve been better selected, sharing, “Okay but can this be at night because the sun is not sensory friendly.”

“LOVE the thought. But will everyone who comes in be sensory-friendly?” another questioned, highlighting that it would probably be difficult for the store to stop individual shoppers from being loud while they shop.

Another user thought that even attempting to implement this kind of shopping experience in their Walmart would be a futile endeavor.

“My Walmart could never, it must be the loudest messiest most crowded chaos at all hours of the day and night,” they wrote.

There were also a number of folks who loved the idea, like one viewer who said the experience felt like “a dream.”

People remarked that Walmart wasn’t the only retailer offering this type of environment for its customers.

“My local supermarket has a sensory free hour everyday! It’s great,” a TikTok user who goes by Ducks remarked.

“They’ve actually been doing this at sobeys for a little while now!” another wrote.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Walmart via email and Ellen via TikTok comment.

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*First Published: Jul 23, 2023, 12:50 pm CDT