Finger on the scale - ©

Do Self-Check-Outs Tempt Us To Steal?

While supermarkets try out self-check-out stations in an attempt to further reduce their staffing costs, some customers are trying out new, creative ways to hoodwink the robot money-takers. And you wondered why those ‘self’ check-outs always have a human hovering close by, just in case…

Self Service Checkouts - © via WikipediaTypical self-check-outs at a typical big supermarket. A temptation to cheat,
even for normally honest shoppers…

That helpful human at the self-check-out pod in your friendly neighbourhood supermarket is not just there to assist you when you don’t know what button to press next. She’s there to keep an eye on you, in case you try to cheat…

How would one cheat?

There are, it turns out, three main ways to cheat at the self-check. They’re simple and fast:

  • Weighing an expensive item under the guise of a cheap one is hard for human watchers to spot.
  • Just not scanning items at all is more risky, but works with items that don’t get weighed.
  • Tampering with the scales when weighing items is virtually undetectable by human watchers, if the cheater is well practised.
  • Bringing a couple of hyperactive kids with you to the store is a good way to distract human watchers and put them off their stride.

Even honest folks are tempted to cheat…

There are many reasons why folks cheat. Most of us are basically honest, but crash under stress.

  • Theft of high-value grocery items, especially meat, always goes up when prices rise. It’s frustration as well as not being able to afford stuff like meat that drives people to it.
  • Produce items you have to weigh are a target for cheating now more than ever with sky-rocketing prices and the attendant frustration that engenders.
  • There’s more frustration at the check-out when folks run into problems when trying to weigh or scan an item. Your hovering human is there to help, but many folks just say ‘screw it!’ and leave the problem item behind. Or, in fewer cases, they just take it without scanning it. Just give it to one of your hyperactive kids to hold while you process the rest of your basket.
  • The perceived risk of shoplifting groceries is lessened without a presence human ‘beeping’ the items through the bug red eye right in front of you.
  • We all suspect the supermarkets of joining in some sort of conspiracy with producers and distributors to price the foods we know and love out of our range. Revenge is the order of the day! They must be making land-office profits off of us, right? Not so. Actual supermarket profit margins average only about 5 per cent, after all the costs to present their wares to you in the most alluring way.

My advice?

Think real hard before you cheat at the self-check-out!

~ Maggie J.