Self service checkouts are a great invention. Sure, they may have taken a few jobs away but gone are the days where you have to make idle chit-chat with a not so fresh-faced teen while they slipped groceries into a planet-destroying plastic bag. Now, you can do it all yourself! Scan, bag, pay and leave.
Which means the system is rife for exploitation.
It’s Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we’re looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting shit done. We like to think we’re shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That’s up to you.
The self-service checkout areas in major supermarkets are generally filled with registers and not too many attendants. Ever since their introduction, I can only imagine that supermarkets are bleeding money but to get rid of them now would see customers abandon the store in droves (probably because they’re stealing a ton of stuff… Yes, stealing as in the crime).
In this weird, wonderful time we call 2017, self-service checkouts have somehow normalised shoplifting at a supermarket. I’m not sure I want to be a part of this revolution, but it’s a revolution taking place right under your nose and there are already many people that use these methods to get away with theft.
Here are some of the ways that people exploit self-service checkouts:
Woolworths vs Coles
The self-service checkout areas at Australia’s two major supermarket chains slightly differ in functionality. At Woolworths, placing an item in the bagging area unexpectedly does not cause issues. However, at Coles, if you are placing items in the bagging area that do not at least partially correspond to what you’ve scanned, the system will flag it as an ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. This is a loss prevention measure used to prevent theft.
Thus, exploiting the self-service checkout is slightly harder at Coles than at Woolworths. Woolworths don’t have the same loss prevention measures, which may be detrimental to their bottom line.
Banana Not To Scale
The weights in the register aren’t always the most precise, so by placing bananas or any other weighable products off the edge of the scale, the balance is fooled. This is probably even easier when you’ve got a big bag of nuts. Holding the top of the bag off the scale gently will prevent the entirety from being weighed. The less the weight, the less it costs.
The more likely you are to get a criminal record, though.
Fruit And Veg Exploits
The fruit and veg department must be a constant source of sadness for supermarket employees. There are so many different ways that are used to take advantage of it – many that I’ve heard from friends and colleagues:
- Bag by colour: Purchasing a few green capsicums and decided that some snow peas would also go well with your dinner? Placing the snow peas into the same bag will deceive any watchful eyes. When you get to the register, just run them through as green capsicums
- Wrong item, right colour: Alternatively, picking up pink lady apples and putting them through the register as red delicious is usually going to rack up a smaller total. A lot of exotic red apple varieties are more expensive, so looking for the cheapest apples per kg and running that through the register is one way to take advantage of the system. Attendants are unlikely to double check.
- Banana trick: Even more devious is weighing expensive food items like meat or confectionery as bananas or any other inexpensive fruit. It seems as long as you’re scanning something, it doesn’t look too suspicious.
Two For One
When moving products from trolley to bag, if you have two items that are the exact same and can fit them both in one hand, pick them up, scan one and place them both in your bag. The Two For One may not work at supermarkets where the bagging area is receptive to fluctuations in weight and will flag the attendant to come and check your bags.
Oh, and it’s stealing. Which is a crime.
Reduced To Clear
If you tend to shop late at night, the bakery section is usually doing their best to clear as much stock as possible before the store closes. Often, you will find that there are numerous reduced to clear barcodes planted on bread rolls, loaves and things like scones and donuts that are about to get chucked. If you can get that barcode off, stick it to a fresh product and you’re on your way. You could also try keeping that barcode and bringing it back in the future.
I haven’t tried this myself, but if the barcode is the same every day, what’s to stop you from using it again and again?
Oh, that’s right. The fact that it’s a crime, obviously.
Get Caught? Feign Ignorance.
Just when you think you’ve got to the end of the line and you’re pushing your trolley out the door, an employee stops you.
“Did you pay for that?”
“Seems like you scanned in a different item?”
“Oh, sorry? This is an onion right!”
“Sir, that is a watermelon”
“I’m… so sorry. I was so confused. How can I pay for this?”
Alright, so the above example isn’t perfect, but pressing the wrong button and carrying on isn’t unheard of so employees are generally forgiving. If you feign ignorance when questioned and offer to pay back what you originally avoided then, to save everyone the hassle, you’re likely to get out of there with your pride still (somewhat) intact. (Just don’t push your luck at the same store more than once.)
There’s also some wisdom that you would be better off doing this later in the evening, when managers have gone home and the only staff that remain are kids and teens that just got out of school and can’t wait to go home.
Of course, Lifehacker doesn’t condone or encourage any of these behaviours and always puts their capsicums through correctly because shoplifting is a crime – one with real world punishments. Putting through a potato the wrong way? That’s stealing.
Shoplifting is a crime. If you’re caught doing any of these things, you may be prosecuted.