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The Banana Trick and Other Acts of Self-Checkout Thievery

Discussion in 'Personal' started by modelmaker, Jul 8, 2020.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Senior commenter

    An article that appeared in the suggested reading part of Firefox's home page. Although the article is about American supermarket customers, I wonder whether British customers are more honest. Is it maybe the real reason why some posters prefer self scanning above keeping workers in employment?


    "Beneath the bland veneer of supermarket automation lurks an ugly truth: There’s a lot of shoplifting going on in the self-scanning checkout lane. But don’t call it shoplifting. The guys in loss prevention prefer “external shrinkage.”

    Self-checkout theft has become so widespread that a whole lingo has sprung up to describe its tactics. Ringing up a T-bone ($13.99/lb) with a code for a cheap ($0.49/lb) variety of produce is “the banana trick.” If a can of Illy espresso leaves the conveyor belt without being scanned, that’s called “the pass around.” “The switcheroo” is more labor-intensive: Peel the sticker off something inexpensive and place it over the bar code of something pricey. Just make sure both items are about the same weight, to avoid triggering that pesky “unexpected item” alert in the bagging area.

    How common are self-scanning scams? If anonymous online questionnaires are any indication, very common. When Voucher Codes Pro, a company that offers coupons to internet shoppers, surveyed 2,634 people, nearly 20 percent admitted to having stolen at the self-checkout in the past. More than half of those people said they gamed the system because detection by store security was unlikely. A 2015 study of self-checkouts with handheld scanners, conducted by criminologists at the University of Leicester, also found evidence of widespread theft. After auditing 1 million self-checkout transactions over the course of a year, totaling $21 million in sales, they found that nearly $850,000 worth of goods left the store without being scanned and paid for.

    The Leicester researchers concluded that the ease of theft is likely inspiring people who might not otherwise steal to do so. Rather than walk into a store intending to take something, a shopper might, at the end of a trip, decide that a discount is in order. As one retail employee told the researchers, “People who traditionally don’t intend to steal [might realize that] … when I buy 20, I can get five for free.” The authors further proposed that retailers bore some blame for the problem. In their zeal to cut labor costs, the study said, supermarkets could be seen as having created “a crime-generating environment” that promotes profit “above social responsibility.”

    Whether out of social responsibility or frustration with shrinkage, some retailers, including Albertsons, Big Y Supermarket, Pavilions, and Vons, have scaled back or eliminated self-scanning, at least in some stores. But others continue to add it. Worldwide, self-checkout terminals are expected to number 325,000 by 2019, up from 191,000 in 2013. In some places, meanwhile, the likelihood of being punished for petty shoplifting is decreasing. Even if a manager wants to press charges, many police departments can’t be bothered with supermarket theft. In 2012, for example, the Dallas Police Department enacted a new policy: Officers would no longer routinely respond to shoplifting calls for boosts amounting to less than $50. In 2015, the threshold was raised yet again, to $100.

    Perhaps it’s not surprising that some people steal from machines more readily than from human cashiers. “Anyone who pays for more than half of their stuff in self checkout is a total *****,” reads one of the more militant comments in a Reddit discussion on the subject. “There is NO MORAL ISSUE with stealing from a store that forces you to use self checkout, period. THEY ARE CHARGING YOU TO WORK AT THEIR STORE.” Barbara Staib, the director of communications of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, believes that self-checkouts tempt people who are already predisposed to shoplifting, by allowing them to rationalize their behavior. “Most shoplifters are in fact otherwise law-abiding citizens. They would chase behind you to return the $20 bill you dropped, because you’re a person and you would miss that $20.” A robot cashier, though, changes the equation: It “gives the false impression of anonymity,” Staib says. “This apparently empowers people to shoplift.”

    Which isn’t to say that all shoppers feel equally empowered. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, says that many supermarket thieves have what he calls Type-T (as in “thrill”) personalities: “Shopping can be quite boring because it’s such a routine, and this is a way to make the routine more interesting. These can be risk-taking, stimulation-seeking people.” According to this theory, some Type Ts become base jumpers or Mafia hit men, while others settle for swiping Brie and organic tomatoes from Safeway."
  2. Ivartheboneless

    Ivartheboneless Star commenter

    Nope. Same in UK. However, if it persuaded them to go back to normal tills, which don't go wrong every sodding time you use them, would it be a bad thing? More employment too. Lower food prices?
    hhhh likes this.
  3. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    No. The reason is the considerable saving of time and effort
  4. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    Bananas? They must be cheaper in the US, the UK tends to prefer carrots;
    Bizarrely, that quote's from the Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/news/...-supermarkets-checkout-stealing-a8370621.html
    Edit: okay, it is in the Times too, but I don't subscribe to that.
  5. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    I thought this was well known . One supermarket Tesco? reported ‘selling’ more avocados than they’d ever had stock - but, apparently, very few carrots.

    ultimately, I presume, it’s cheaper to ride the loss than to employ more cashiers.
    EmanuelShadrack likes this.
  6. Aquamarina1234

    Aquamarina1234 Star commenter

    I've using those self-scan things since coronavirus. On two occasions I have walked out with something I haven't paid for. Both times I believed I had scanned the product but when I looked at the receipt later, it wasn't on there. Maybe they need better technology.
    Pretending an avocado is a carrot is plain old theft. Contemptible.
    Oscillatingass likes this.
  7. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    few years back I picked up a pair of shorts in Tesco. When they were scanned by the cashier the computer didn't recognise them. Supervisor was called, she couldn't get them to scan either and when entered by hand the computer didn't recognise them. Supervisor of the clothing section was called. Same rigmarole, still item not recognised. Supervisor asked where we had got them from. We said from the rail in her dept. She then said that this was not possible as these items were not sold by the store. I said in that case I'll take them home and I'll pop back upstairs and get another half a dozen pairs while I was at it. She got quite shirty, claiming that they didn't sell these items (I don't know where she thought we had got them from). So I said that in that case I must have brought them into the store with me and so they were mine. (They were F&F brand). Anyway woman took items away and went off in a huff. Mrs B does not take this sort of thing lying down so wrote to customer services. Tesco sent us a £30 voucher for the inconvenience (the shorts were £12 IIRC). Next visit the rail of shorts was still there so we took another pair down to the till. Same happened, same woman was summonsed, same 'discussion'. Another complaint, another £30 voucher. We never got the shorts!
    RepelloInimicum, Pomza, nomad and 3 others like this.
  8. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    I always use the self-scan checkouts in Tesco - they always work these days and it is much quicker.

    ....and I've never cheated or nicked anything from a supermarket ever as far as I know.
    LiamD, EmanuelShadrack, nomad and 3 others like this.
  9. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Why would you do something so stupid - if you get caught it's a criminal record.
    Pomza and nomad like this.
  10. colacao17

    colacao17 Senior commenter

    I'm shocked by this - 20% of people admit to theft! Disappointed as well really in the human species. I'd feel better knowing those people were all stealing food items because they really needed to, but I doubt that's the case.

    The line comparting the supermarkets themselves prizing profit above social responsibility does make me think they're just as much to blame though as the thieves themselves.
    bombaysapphire likes this.
  11. modelmaker

    modelmaker Senior commenter

    The prices can't get lower than if you nick it, however I take the point you're making. Us honest people who do our best to keep checkout assistants in employment will likely be paying more than we should, due to the thieving gits who self scan. I wonder whether the selfish self-scanners take selfies while they're at it.
  12. Wotton

    Wotton Lead commenter

    Never use the self checking always use a person checkout, I'm paying for the service so may as well use it. they don't pay me to do all the work myself nor offer a discount if I use the self checkout. I don't mind waiting.
    RepelloInimicum and chelsea2 like this.
  13. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    If you really want to keep supermarket people in employment just buy stuff you don't need and return it on your next visit.
  14. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    If you want to get more for your money and don't mind waiting always ask staff to direct you to where items are, even if you know where to find them.
    colpee and CheeseMongler like this.
  15. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    I much prefer to use the self-scan checkouts - especially if I only have a few items.
    Doitforfree likes this.
  16. ACOYEAR8

    ACOYEAR8 Star commenter

    All retailers factor in theft when costing and pricing, so we pay for it in the end. I heard a story ( perhaps apocryphal but amusing) about a certain well known Knightsbridge store which issued a new platinum credit card. One fine day, a couple appeared in the music dpt and bought a grand piano on their card. They said they had a lorry waiting and the piano was duly loaded on to the lorry.
    Not long after, the card was discovered to have been forged (this was some years back). The accounts Dept decide to bill everyone who had a platinum card for one grand piano...apparently, more than one person paid, proving that those with so much money, don't scrutinise their bills that well...
  17. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Only self scan I've ever used was at B&Q. They started off ok, then there was a 50% chance an alarm would sound and an assistant would have to come and whack the machine to make it work. The last few times I used it the alarm sounded every time, sometimes for more than one item so I stopped, I think they've been removed now.

    Never been tempted to use one at the supermarket for the same reason. For some reason being held up when I wasn't expecting it is much more annoying than taking longer when I was expecting it.

    I've always had a bit of a chat with the operator too while I'm there too, though I hate it when every now and then they are told to say stuff that comes across as false and pointless, occasionally you get "did you get everything you came for?" - "No" - they aren't ever going to produce the thing they don't have so that's where the conversation ends. Just let them be people.
  18. Aquamarina1234

    Aquamarina1234 Star commenter

    I don't mean the one where you pass your shopping across the checkout scanner yourself. I mean the one where they give you a handheld device and you ping the item and put it straight in your own bags and there's no weighing or anything. Just point the scanner at the screen, pay and walk. A thief's dream.
  19. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Well they are probably not actually losing money, just not making as big a profit.
  20. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    I always use the hand held scanners in Tesco. It means I can pack the stuff in my own bags as I go round the shop (different bags for different types of items). I get stopped for a check maybe once in every dozen visits. I am told that if there was a disparity then the checks would happen more frequently. More disparities mean more frequent checks until you are no longer allowed to use a scanner.
    Jesmond12 and bombaysapphire like this.

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