Updated: Jul 14
Several supermarkets are currently trialling barriers at the exit from the self-scan tills, where you must scan a receipt to leave the store. This is in response to a significant increase in the amount of theft and from new types of theft at Self-Scan tills. Here's an overview of some the checkout technologies in use today and the concerns being raised.
There has been a lot of pushback against the introduction of barriers at tills. At no point have we ever had to prove we have paid for goods before we leave a store, but this is effectively what these barriers do. They have been put in due to various forms of crime that has seen people exit the store from the till area without paying for goods.
Self Scan tills already have cameras that playback images of each customer as you scan items. This is a deterrent, based on behavioural science, (nudging) where if you see yourself on camera scanning items you are less likely to steal. Most supermarkets do not store these images long term which are deleted in line with GDPR rules
Facial recognition concerns: A common question is whether the self scan cameras use facial recognition. There have been trials in some stores for ID checks linked to the till software through an app. However general facial recognition at the moment is currently limited to a few Co Op stores and that is subject to legal challenge.
The future potential for facial recognition is that any image could be linked to publicly available data including images from social media, to positively identify a person of interest. Facial recognition images might be held on a supermarket's own closed system to alert the store if suspected thieves try to enter the store in future.
Age verification is currently done by eyeball. You can clearly tell if most people are old enough to buy restricted items, so only the borderline cases are checked. A concern of a software based solution will likely be the need to ID check every purchase, and more than once if multiple items are bought. This could lead to a situation where we all have to "sign in" to a supermarket, possibly by a facial scan.
Stores should have a notice telling you if they use facial recognition and how they manage your data and where you can find full privacy details.
Rescans: Self Scan tills also use a rescan process as an anti theft deterrent. Everyone will be asked at random intervals to have a supervisor rescan a number of products or a whole shop
When you first start using self scan, you will usually receive a rescan within 12 weeks and then at random intervals thereafter. If you buy wines and spirits, your chance of a rescan will be higher.
If you fail a rescan with unscanned items in your basket, the frequency of the next rescan(s) will increase until the scans are accurate. Repeated fails could see the right to use self scan withdrawn.
Whilst most theft is petty theft, conducted by individuals, organised gangs are taking advantage of fewer staff across the day and use increasingly complex methods to defraud these tills,
Scanning a receipt to leave the store is also being tied in with greater use of barriers at the entry and exit points to stop trolley push outs. This is usually done by the organised gangs where a whole trolley of goods is simply pushed out of the entrance when the security is weakest. Criminals test stores through the day to find the best time to steal.
There has also been an increase in ordinary shoppers not scanning products, (accidentally and deliberately) and also not scanning reusable bags for life.
Supermarket profit and loss reporting and accurate ordering relies on good stock management. Goods arriving at the backdoor should be traceable right through the store, being either in inventory and in the store or recorded as a sale through the till.
Where there is known waste such as reductions in price this can be seen in the reporting as it has been scanned at the lower price. Unknown waste, known as shrinkage only appears after a stocktake of some sort is done. At this point it becomes apparent the expected inventory is missing or incorrect. Corrupted inventory affects the stores finances and the on shelf availability and ordering processes.
Shrinkage occurs throughout the store and manifests itself as theft, unrecorded breakages, non-receipt of goods, incorrect prices, barcode errors, incorrect product recognition at the tills and a lot more.
The amount of shrinkage has risen with a large percentage coming through theft. The consequences and punishments for shoplifting are much lower today, so the cost of shoplifting is simply passed on to the prices everyone pays.
In a way the increased theft is of the store’s own making. Theft opportunities are fewer at manned tills, but labour cost is the supermarket's biggest cost, so all supermarkets are using technology like self scan tills as a way to pass workload on to the customers, whilst promoting it as convenient.
Simply installing these barriers has seen a significant reduction in the shrinkage through theft, although they are unpopular with many customers. It may be that the weight of public opinion sees them removed again, but for now they are here to stay
Disclaimer: I hope to monetise this blog with an affiliate program to support my costs and time involved. I am NOT sponsored and nor do I speak for any of the employers I have worked for. This is my own content based on my knowledge and opinions