Supermarket giant Coles is restricting the number of items at self-serve check-outs to just 12, just months after it ordered a crackdown on theft at self-scanning points.

Coles told it was trialling "a 12-item limit on self scanning check-outs" in a number of stores with a Coles staff member on duty at the lanes.

"We have found customers with small baskets can generally complete their shopping faster by using self-scanning check-outs," a Coles spokesperson revealed.

Coles also said customers with more than 12 items could use "traditional belted lanes" staffed by their checkout team members.


The announcement comes four months after exclusively revealed Coles was cracking down on self-serve theft.

This followed research that found shoppers were more likely to steal at a self-serve machine, partly because customers were distanced from the human face of the business.

Supermarket theft is compounded by the ease with which self-serve machines allow shoppers to pass off more expensive fruit, vegetables and bakery products as cheaper products.

The "swipe everything as carrots" mentality was prevalent among young customers, who confessed to supermarket research body Canstar Blue that they had ripped off supermarkets at the self-serve.

Canstar Blue told that while younger customers had embraced self-serve because they actively tried to avoid interaction with others while shopping, they also practised the "five-finger discount".

In early October, Coles called on NSW police to help them target self-serve checkout theft, and reduce its annual overall theft debt which retail industry experts estimate at $1.1 billion.

Coles says it was tired of shoppers who either didn't scan products to avoid paying, or scanned cheaper items to get a discount on more expensive products.

Supermarket theft is compounded by the ease at which self-serve machines allowed shoppers to pass off more costly fruit, vegetables and bakery products as cheaper items.


"We have had a lot of interest in self-serve check-outs and what is being done to reduce theft," Coles spokeswoman Martine Alpins said.

She admitted there had been "a normalisation of theft at self-service check-outs".

Superintendent Murray Chapman said police would get serious about targeting thieves.

Canstar Blue found that one in six customers aged in their 30s said they had deliberately not paid for an item at a self-service checkout.

Almost one in 10 shoppers of all ages admitted they had cheated supermarkets in the self-serve section, Canstar Blue found in its survey. Men were more likely to steal than women.

Coles has already used technology to recalibrate machines in its Victorian stores to speed up self-service shopping.