Smart Takes

Data confirms: self-checkout encourages efficiency, theft

Data confirms: self-checkout encourages efficiency, theft

Posting in Technology

Data analytics confirm it: theft is five times higher in self-checkout lanes. Can the technology catch up to thieves?

On paper, the self-checkout lane is a godsend for retail stores. It costs a lot of money to staff cash registers with real people. Why not let the customer do the work?

Aside from the fact that these machines encourage sluggish behavior -- in my experience, it always takes at least twice as long to pay for my goods in a self-checkout lane, despite my best efforts -- it turns out that they also attract less-than-honest activity: shoplifting.

Malay Kundu, founder of retail video analytics firm Stoplift, explains to USA Today just how bad the problem is:

Kundu's company has seen people scanning their Starbucks as bananas, leaving their items in the cart or reusable bag instead of scanning them and overloading the bagging area so that un-scanned merchandise can be piled on without being sensed.

Theft is five times higher in self-checkout lanes, according to the report. Stores such as Home Depot use employees to monitor self-checkout lanes, but the problem persists.

While Walmart and CVS add self-service lanes, other stores are removing them for "customer service" reasons, which includes theft and inconvenience. Still, the tech is predicted to grow by 10 percent in the next few years, according to research firm IHL Group.

New, smarter, more sensitive systems promise faster turnover and reduced theft -- but as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Unless the pudding has been pilfered, that is.

Share this

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure