Self-checkout theft is on the rise and nobody has any ideas on how to stop it. Robots usually result in money savings for businesses, but in this case, they turn a blind eye to blatant thieves.
Many stores have been replacing their traditional human cashiers with automatic self-checkout lines. The thought was to cut labor costs and increase company profits, but a growing trend will quickly eat up those profits.
In the news
There have been increasing reports of theft at self-checkout lanes. Some of it is plain not paying for items, by scanning a single purchase, but not the five identical products in your cart. Other problems are more sinister. Tricks include putting expensive meat cuts on the scale, but typing in the price per pound of cheap produce (such as bananas) or covering UPC codes with stickers from other products that are a similar shape and size, but far cheaper.
This has become a serious problem and there are no signs that it will go away. Click here for the data on this growing trend. People don't even care that it is stealing.
What this means
Apparently people feel at least some remorse when they shop-lift because they see the poor human cashier who will have to explain the lost inventory. For robots this is not the case. Individuals don't feel the same connection with machines. They actually think of it as noble. They are "sticking it to the man," the big box store who replaced human cashiers with self-checkouts. In reality, it leads to the same problems that normal shop-lifting creates. Namely, higher prices.
What companies are doing about it
Businesses are having various reactions to this trend. Some are hiring extra security personnel to oversee self-checkout lanes. Others are discontinuing self-checkouts entirely and reinstating traditional human cashiers. Still other companies are ignoring the trend and doubling down on machines saying that theft is just another cost of doing business.
None of these approaches is best. Self-checkouts were supposed to cut labor costs and reduce prices for consumers. If these goals aren't being met, then the whole system must be revisited. Computer programmers need to figure out how to make the robots smarter to catch the fraud. Or even more radical, we could teach kids that stealing is morally wrong and prevent the theft in the first place. Isn't that a novel idea?
Ethan Hausmann is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Community Outreach for Successtar Enterprises LLC. He is an author, professional speaker, and seminar/workshop instructor. Ethan has extensive knowledge and experience in marketing, customer service, leadership, and other small business related concerns.