Sunday 21 January 2018

Shoppers steal billions through self service tills

Claire Carter

Billions of goods are being stolen from self service checkouts, as shoppers admit stealing on average €18 each a month through the tills

Shoppers will have their brains scanned in an attempt to discover whether spending too long in a supermarket really does lead you to make bad and impulsive decisions.

Shoppers are stealing more than £1.6 billion worth of items from supermarkets every year as frustration with self service tills leads to theft, a survey found.

Fruit and vegetables are the most likely items to be taken, as shoppers confess to stealing on average €18 worth each of goods every month from self scanners.

One in five people admit pilfering items at the checkout, but the results suggest people steal regularly once they realise they can get away with it – the majority admitting they first took goods because they couldn’t work the machines.

Crispian Strachan, former chief constable  and tutor at Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, said stealing from self service tills is no different from hiding goods in a handbag or taking a purse from a table.

“The method of observation at a self-service till may be more of a temptation than being watched by someone,” he said.

But he said supermarkets were already vigilant with CCTV, weighted bagging areas and attendants at self-service tills meaning there is only so much stores could do to crack down on theft, without investing even more time and money into pursuing thieves.

He added: “Shop theft has often been thought of as a victimless crime.

“What people have always done is rationalise it to themselves as something that ‘nobody will notice’ anyway, but I don’t see it like that. These costs are passed onto the store and the tax payer.”

The survey asked 2,634 people aged 18 and over about their shopping habits and use of self service checkouts.

Around 19 per cent admitted stealing from self service checkouts with the majority saying they did so regularly. Around 57 per cent of these said they first started taking goods because they couldn’t get an item to scan.

George Charles, spokesperson for which did the survey, said: “I’m sure most of those who now admit to stealing via self-service checkouts didn’t initially set out to do so – they may have forgotten to scan something and quickly realised how easy it could be to take items without scanning them.”

Some admitted they decided to pilfer goods from scanners because they believed they were less likely to get caught.


When asked why they stole items 32 per cent said they realised they didn’t have enough money to pay for the goods while 41 per cent said the machines were easier to fool.


Mr Charles added: “Supermarkets need to increase the number of staff who monitor the self-scan checkouts, even though the point of these checkouts is to reduce the need for staff, as well as increase their security measures to ensure this comes to an end.


“It’s not worth getting into trouble with the police over the matter of a few pieces of fruit and veg.”


The latest crime survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found theft reached its highest level in nine years last year, with the average value increasing to £177 per incident.


The top five reasons people gave for stealing items from self-service checkouts were:


1. Gave up trying to scan something that wouldn’t register – 57 per cent


2. Less likely to get caught – 51 per cent


3. The machine is easy to fool – 47 per cent


4. Didn’t have enough money – 32 per cent


5. At the time I didn’t realise it hadn’t scanned – six per cent


The top items people admit stealing from self service checkouts:


1. Fruit/vegetables 67 per cent


2. Bakery 41 per cent


3. Confectionery 32 per cent


4. Toiletries 26 per cent

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