The rate of supermarket shoplifting has rocketed with the introduction of self service tills, according to the latest research.
The report revealed that as many as one in three shoppers is far from honest whilst at the check-out and either failing to pay for items or slipping more expensive goods into their bag.
The study was carried out by the money saving internet group, watchmywallet.co.uk and interviewed 4,952 individuals about their shopping habits.
Despite having enough money to pay for the shopping in their basket, one in three shoppers admitted to sneaking goods in without paying for them. And even more said the only reason they were honest was the fear of getting caught.
Shoplifting carries the potential for a prison sentence but, in reality, very few individuals get locked up for the crime.
The crime has seen a spate of celebrity shoplifters caught in the act, with one of the latest culprits, famous cook Anthony Worrall Thompson, nabbed walking out with cheese and wine that he hadn’t paid for. And the incident took place after the TV chef bagged up the goods in the self service area. Just like many other shoplifters, Mr Worrall Thompson escaped prosecution and simply received a slap on the wrist from the police via a caution. Footballing superstars are not above helping themselves either. Mega-rich Manchester United goalie, David de Gea, was recently reprimanded for wolfing down a doughnut instore, without paying for the item.
Many of the large supermarkets have now adopted the system which allows queues to move more quickly and takes less manpower to run. Shoppers are trusted to scan the items before bagging them although there are some security checks in place. Scales are designed to check the weight of goods being bagged, to check they match and flash a warning if extra items are surreptitiously added. However, canny individuals have found ways to bypass some of the automated checks, such as scanning cheaper goods than they bag.
Fruit and vegetables are prime candidates for this, as customers have to manually enter their selection. White onions are frequently selected as they are very cheap but shoppers are secretly bagging up more expensive goods. One in six of those interviewed admitted that they weren’t entirely honest when entering a selection without the use of a barcode. One in two of those who admitted shoplifting said they picked a cheaper item when bagging up their goods.
Another common trick is to fib about the size of a box for items such as a salad, or even skip scanning altogether. Tampering with the scales is another ruse crafty shoppers employ.
Supermarkets use staff to oversee the self service area to try and deter shoppers from trying to cheat the system. However in reality, many are simply keen to keep queues moving, especially during peak times and miss some of the more underhand moves employed by customers. They often frequently choose to override any warning or error messages without checking the contents of bags against the itemised bill. If shoppers are caught, many simply claim to have made a mistake.
But even though the widespread nature of the deceit would seem to indicate that shoppers are being motivated by personal debts and lack of money, experts say this isn’t the case. Beverley Stone, a top psychologist, has said that the individuals usually have the money to pay for the goods, leading her to conclude that the actions are about a ‘lack of morals,’ rather than being as a result of poverty.