Data confirms: self-checkout encourages efficiency, theft

Summary: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.

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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