Self Service Supermarket Checkout Theft : Here’s Why People Steal…

Self Service Supermarket Checkout Theft
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Self Service Supermarket Checkout Theft : Here’s Why People Steal…

Do self service check outs encourage people to steal or cheat prices on products?

Have you ever stolen or price cheated via this technology?

Self Service Supermarket Checkouts (DIY-Do It Yourself) checkouts have been embraced by major retailers. Walmart, Sainsbury, Tesco, Woolworths, Coles, Kmart, and Bunnings jumped at the chance to implement self service technology.

However, one of the most major drawbacks of this roll out has been consumer theft and consumer “cheating”. All retail accounts mentioned have reported high losses. Self scan has been blamed for products either being not scanned or being underpaid for. One of Australia’s major supermarket chains discovered that they were selling more carrots than they actually had in inventory. Upon closer investigation, it was discovered that carrots were being selected at the self service check outs when the product was being weighed. People were purchasing more expensive items like cherries at carrot prices. It is estimated that retailers are losing billions of dollars a year. Self service supermarket checkout theft is suspected to have cost Australian retailers over $380 million in 2015.

coles supermarket

Benefits of Self Service Checkouts:

Efficiency and Speed:

Rather than face long lines in a queue customers can quickly scan their items and pay. This is supposed to be handy during peak periods and cuts down wait time. It supposed to keep customers happy and employees less stressed.

Reduction of Space:

 Self service check outs do not take up as much space as traditional check outs do. Up to six kiosks can fit into the space of a traditional kiosk with a cashier.

Reduction of Labor Cost:

A self service check out is cheaper to purchase and maintain than a full time employee. One or two employees can monitor a whole bay of DIY checkouts. Therefore, a huge saving on overheads.

Disadvantages of Self Service Checkouts:

Consumer Difficulties: 

People who are not technologically savvy may face difficulty operating the system. Frustrating errors often come up such as “unexpected item in shopping bag”. The machine having issues recognising an item which needs a service attendant’s password and assistance before the customer can continue shopping. Bar codes and coupons may not scan properly. Customers may need general assistance. All these issues cause backups in queues.

Dehumanization:

Some customers think its’ an impersonal experience. They would prefer brief interaction, small talk and personalized service. Resentment may be caused by the idea of machines replacing people whilst others resent the fact that they have to do the work of processing and packing the order, though mostly all retailers still have traditional employee controlled check out kiosks, so the option for that is still there.

Theft:

Significant increased opportunities for people to either steal items outright or underpay for items by scanning other bar codes or selecting cheaper fresh produce items on the computer system when it comes to weighing produce

Self Service Supermarket Checkout Theft. Here’s How Customers Do It!

  • Customers often just leave certain items in their shopping cart, scan and bag the rest and then leave.
  • They will slip items into shopping bags without scanning them right before or during the time they place bagged scanned items in their shopping trolley
  • Customers may simply retain certain items in their hand whilst scanning others.
  • They may pretend to scan light weight items such as thinly sliced meats and greeting cards or chocolate bars and place them in the bag. The machine is quite likely to not detect something so light weight.
  • One of the most obvious methods is to take a more so expensive fresh produce item like cherries or mangoes or green beans, put them on the scale and select cheaper items such as onions, carrots or apples.
  • Some supermarkets have self service fresh nuts and dried fruit counters. Price cheating this section is easy. For example, select a small amount of almonds , place them on the scale provided and enter the relevant code. The machine will print out a price and bar code. Let’s say it comes to $1.50. The customer goes back to the almond stock, fills up the bag up entirely with almonds and scans this at the checkout. Only paying $1.50 for something that would cost well over $10.00.

British criminology professor Adrian Beck who has conducted research on global retail theft from major retailers believes that loses from self service check out technology (3.97%) is nearly double compared to people simply stealing product off the shelf and walking out of the store (1.47%). Though it is impossible to differentiate between honest mistakes at self service check outs such as forgetting to scan an item and theft/cheating. Supermarkets such as Coles state “the vast majority of our customers do the right thing” while Woolworths stated “We closely monitor these checkouts and update our systems to address theft” However there does not seem to have been a decrease in retail fraud losses. Perhaps the only real way to greatly minimize it is to add extra staff to oversee customers self serving on the terminals.

Interestingly, a new name and acronym has been developed for people who engage in self service supermarket checkout theft : SWIPERS (Seemingly Well Intentional Patrons Engaging Routine Shoplifting). These types of shoppers are not being fraudulent out of desperate need. They most likely began this cycle by accidentally not scanning an item or scanning an item for a cheaper item and getting away with it. This has influenced them to continue doing so, simply because it seems so easy to do.  These customers would never steal an item off a shelf. They have begun to cheat the system only because the technology allows them to do so. Hence, saving a good amount of money on their groceries.

Reasons For Self Service Supermarket Checkout Theft

  • Self service check outs create a faceless element to steal from or to price cheat. With no face to bridge a connection makes doing it much easier.
  • Many consumers feel justified because they resent major retailers due to perceived ideas of them underpaying their staff and treating them poorly.
  • The perceived poor treatment of Australian farmers by the big corporate retailers.
  • Anger over having to wait in queues and having to process and bag groceries themselves.
  • The removal of personalized customer service. Some people feel that if supermarkets are not going to invest in customer service representatives then the customer will help themselves as they see fit.
  • Retaliation against the perceived corporate greed of the major retailers.
  • Mere thrill of getting a bargain and seeing whether you can get away with it.
  • People feel entitled to “transgress”. They will cheat the system if given the opportunity to with the justification that they are good people generally and if price cheating, are still paying something for the item they are taking.

 

Can you ever condone self service supermarket checkout theft from larger retailers?

Will self service checkouts prove to be an asset or a detriment to retailers in the long run?

 

Leave a Reply


6 comments

      1. Obviously in one scenario you provide some consideration, in the other you do not but the net result is you are taking something you didnt pay for. The fact this is even a question demonstrates the selfishness of modern society. Is it the fault of the machine? No more than you would be at fault for leaving a door unlocked and being robbed. This is what happens when you remove the fear of being caught – people will take advantage if they can get away with it & come up with bullshit excuses to justify their theft so they can still consider themselves stand-up citizens.

        1. @juanv I place no blame on the machines. The onus is on the shopper. But I do believe that the machines do indirectly encourage this kind of behaviour. It’s far too easy to beat this system and its human nature to take advantage. There is certainly no love lost for the corporate retailer when it comes to the average consumer. I believe that they should have expected this sort of thing when it came to installing this kind of technology. I also believe that if small businesses, or independent grocers had this kind of technology installed , theft and price cheating would be very minimal.

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