For many, self service checkouts are a source of frequent
annoyance and confusion, rather than the convenient and labour
saving innovation they were supposed to be - but for just under
one third of shoppers that
responded to our survey, the bleeping, stern voiced scanning
terminals provide the perfect cover for petty theft, or "cheating"
- depending on your point of view.
70 per cent of shoppers
surveyed said they would never consider exploiting the
opportunities presented by automated tills, but almost a quarter of
those admitted it was only for the fear of getting caught - the
rest said they considered it stealing and would never do it.
Most Common Self Checkout Tricks
- Selecting cheaper fruit/vegetable when weighing
- Selecting "Small" when required to manually enter size
- Bagging without scanning
- Walking off without paying
- Tampering with scales
Non barcoded items, such as loose fruit and veg, provided the
greatest opportunity for fiddling. 16 per cent of shoppers admitted to being
dishonest when requested to manually enter an item into the
checkout, such as selecting the type of vegetable being
A common trick is to select the cheapest vegetable, typically
white onions, when putting a more valuable item through, such as
oranges. Half of those who admitted to cheating the system said
they selected a cheaper item when putting loose items through.
Salad boxes presented
another golden opportunity for dishonesty, with 8 per cent of shoppers admitting to
selecting "small," regardless of the actual size of their
The findings of our survey reveal that despite being designed to
detect fraudulent transactions as well as picking up on genuine
mistakes, self service checkouts have a number of
Other indiscretions reported in our study ranged from
opportunistic to brazen. 2 percent
admitted to tampering with the scales when paying for
something by weight, 7 percent
bagged an item without scanning it first and 5 per cent claimed to have simply walked
away from the checkout without paying.
Checkouts are calibrated to detect when an unpaid for item makes
it into the bagging area, giving rise to the now famous phrase
"unexpected item in the bagging area." But staff regularly override
the checkout in order to keep the queues flowing. One checkout
supervisor recently landed her employer in hot water when she
overrode the till to allow a seven-year-old girl to purchase wine
for her mother.
Without proper supervision, small items such as packets can
easily be slipped into a bag unnoticed and passed off by the
customer as an honest mistake, if challenged.
While our poll revealed disagreement over the ethics of cheating
the checkout, there seems to be a much stronger consensus when it
comes to the user experience - most admit to having lost their
Tesco Chief executive Philip Clarke recently admitted that some
people "hate" the self service checkouts, but defended their use
when talking to press about a planned £1bn investment in Tesco