Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Self-service checkouts attracting thieves

Queues and theft blamed as UK supermarket chain removes do-it-yourself checkout option.

One in five shoppers admitted stealing when using self-service kiosks in the UK. Photo / Sarah Ivey
One in five shoppers admitted stealing when using self-service kiosks in the UK. Photo / Sarah Ivey

They may have made supermarket shopping faster, but self-service checkouts are making it easier for customers to steal or cheat the system.

A Canstar Blue survey of 3,000 Australian shoppers found that 9 per cent had deliberately not paid for an item at a self-service checkout. For those in their 30s, this jumped to 17 per cent.

Further research by criminologist Emmeline Taylor from The Australian National University showed a significant number of shoppers that wouldn't consider stealing from a shop floor had stolen using the self service checkouts machines.

According to Taylor, shoppers who cheated the system using the machines often did not consider what they were doing as stealing and didn't see themselves as thieves.

Of those surveyed that admitted cheating the self-service machines, 10 per cent were men and 8 per cent were women. For those aged 70 or older, just 2 per cent said they had done this.

Supermarket chain Waitrose in Britain has removed a significant number of its self-service kiosks.

The chain said the move was aimed at speeding up shopping, but a week earlier a survey had revealed one in five shoppers admitted to stealing produce when using self-service tills because of the lack of staff monitoring the area.

Although self-service checkouts do have some technological security by having scales in the bagging area, these measures were easy to circumvent.

Shoppers could swap barcodes on items, scan more expensive vegetables or fruit as lower cost varieties or avoid scanning an item and just placing it on the floor or in an already packed bag. Some even went to the more elaborate lengths of creating their own barcodes to scan.

The Canstar survey showed 70 per cent of shoppers on average across Coles and Woolworths - two main Australian supermarket chains - used self-service machines.

- NZ Herald

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