Do self-checkouts bring out the worst in us?

man stealing a bottle of wine

To no-one’s surprise, it seems we are a nation of thieves. Well, at least one in five of us is anyway. 

A survey conducted by found that almost 20 per cent, or 3.8 million people, had stolen from a supermarket in the past 12 months and the self-checkout seems to be the thievery site of choice. 

The research found that 9 per cent of respondents admitted to outright theft at the self-checkout, while 10 per cent have lied about what they scanned. That second figure represents about two million people, which is a lot of fuji apples scanned at Jonathan apple prices.

Read: Too many Australians refusing to spend their super

Finder puts it down to the escalating cost of living. Spokesman Richard Whitten said some Australians were struggling to afford necessities.

“A lot of people are doing it tough as the cost of essentials like petrol, rent and energy have risen sharply,” he said.

“The result is a growing subset of Australians who are stealing consumables to survive.

“Of course, most self-checkout machines can’t tell brown onions from portobello mushrooms, and I suspect a lot of Australians don’t regard scanning items incorrectly on purpose to be the same level of theft as running out of a shop with a loaf of bread.”

I’m not sure how people are managing to steal stuff at the self-checkout. At my last supermarket shop, the attendant had to come over twice because somehow the checkout knew I still had something in my basket (it was bought at another store … okay … it was wine) and apparently I hadn’t put my garlic in the bagging area. I had, but it was too light to register.  All the while I could see I was being filmed. 

Of course, some people prefer the self-checkouts, but it’s an imperfect system designed to cut staff costs that’s always going to be ripe for exploitation.

Read: More Australians than ever struggling to pay grocery bills

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Do you like the self-checkouts? Is supermarket surveillance too much? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

One Comment

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  1. Last week, I got to my car after going through the self-serve check-out and found a small packet of herbs that was caught under a bag.
    I took it back to the Information Desk and told them I had missed it going through the check-out.
    He put it through the register and I paid $1.80 owing and he thanked me for coming back with it.
    I replied that I need to be able to sleep at night without a guilty conscience.
    It seems consciences are not too common any more! 🙁

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