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it's a steal

I’m a criminologist – exactly why shoppers become part time thieves at Walmart and Target & why it could happen to you

A CRIMINOLOGIST has offered an insight into why Walmart and Target shoppers that use the self-checkout might become “part-time thieves.”

Experts have claimed that customers can be lured by a sense of anonymity when they use the scanning machines.

Criminologist Adam Beck has revealed why shoppers may turn into 'part-time thieves' when they use the self-checkout at stores such as WalmartCredit: Getty
He researched the losses that retailers such as Target suffered as a result of self-checkout theftCredit: Getty

Criminologist Adam Beck told CBC Canada that shoppers are not going into stores with the intent of stealing.

He said: “They’re just taking the opportunity that they are presented with at these machines.”

He added that shoppers are being turned into “part-time thieves”.

Beck studied losses that retailers suffered as a result of self-checkout theft and honest mistakes by shoppers between 2016-18.

He examined data from retailers including Walmart and Target.

And, Barbara Staib, a spokesperson for the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, told the outlet: “So what inspires shoppers to steal at self-checkout?

“They’re lured by the promise of anonymity.

"If I think nobody’s watching me and nobody’s seeing what I’m doing, I’m far more likely to misbehave.”

Legal experts at the MacDonald Law Office have claimed Walmart theft prosecutions have “dramatically increased” following the introduction of self-checkout machines.

But, dozens of shoppers have shared horror tales where they’ve been wrongly accused of shoplifting after making an unintentional mistake.

Lawyers have said that customers have a strong defense if they find themselves in that situation.

Patrons have been wrongly accused as store bosses try to identify suspected shoplifters.

Lawyers said: “These types of shoplifting prosecutions have several weaknesses that a good criminal defense attorney can utilize to defend against a theft conviction.”

Bosses will also watch security footage but sometimes the video may be of poor quality.


This may make it difficult for employees to identify alleged shoplifters.

And, the lawyers said Walmart “may not be able to authenticate register receipts”.

Meanwhile, Kroger has teamed up with the AI company Everseen as part of its efforts to reduce self-checkout-related thefts.

Technology has been rolled out across more than a thousand of its stores in a bid to prevent “skip scans”.

The new Visual AI device captures video and flags errors that customers make at the self-checkout.

The technology invites shoppers to rectify their mistakes, or a staffer is called if they are unable to do so.

Chris McCarrick, a senior manager of asset protection, solutions, and technology at Kroger, said: “Now, if customers make an error when scanning, the system will give them a gentle nudge to get things back on track.”

He described it as a “win-win situation” as workers' jobs are being made easier.

This is because they're not having to be called over as many times to solve issues.