Self-Checkout Theft

I can count on one finger (guess which one) the number of times I have used the self-checkout lane at any store I shop at. Actually, I should amend that; I’ve used the self-checkout lane successfully one time, the other three times required an attendant to come over and fix something that went wrong with their machine. I decided that something which didn’t work correctly three-quarters of the time was not worth my time and effort. Plus, it inevitably ended up taking longer than standing in a line with a real, human cashier.

Self-Checkout Lanes

But despite my disdain for this excuse to make me do the store’s work, without even the offer of a discount for doing so, I’ve never thought that I should practice self-checkout theft. I mean, how do people work up the chutzpah to do something like this?

This article in The Atlantic Magazine points out how an estimated 20 percent of people who use the self-checkout lane are practicing self-checkout theft. And it’s not even called “shoplifting” any longer by loss prevention workers, it’s called “external shrinkage” and is accomplished in a variety of ways from failing to scan an item or items to mislabeling an item that a cashier would spot but the scanner doesn’t.

“Anyone who pays for more than half of their stuff in self-checkout is a total moron.”

Self-Checkout Theft

This person is trying to pay the price of bananas for their T-bone steaks.

That seems to be the mentality of some shoppers who love to use self-checkout. The article points to an audit of transactions.

“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.”

In the U.S., at least, it seems that this is a behavior that goes mostly unpunished. According to the article, some police departments, like the Dallas Police, won’t respond to a theft in this manner unless it is for more than $100.

But in Germany, at least, that seems to not be the case. A man who earns the equivalent of almost $30,000 per month was fined $256,663 for putting $58.00 worth of veal liver in fruit bag to scan at a much lower price.

It would seem like, if there ever was one, that this is a crime of opportunity that at least one-fifth of us can’t seem to let pass by. And most stores, it seems, let it happen.


Do you regularly use the self-checkout lanes? If so, what has been your experience?

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One Response to Self-Checkout Theft

  1. lavendrite says:

    Wow! I use self checkout fairly often and it is true, I almost always have to have someone come over to fix something! One day I was only checking one thing and must have had my mind on something else, and I walked out without paying. I was checking my bank account (as I often do) to see how much money I had left and realized there was no debit for that item. I took it back the next day and had them rering me at customer service to pay for it. They looked at me pretty oddly, but they did it. However, it amazed me that it could even happen. The stores are so busy that noone even noticed and I can see now that it probably happens a lot!

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