Thievery, or a clever loophole? Probably both. With the rise of self-checkout kiosks in grocery stores across the UK, customers are trying to game the system by weighing expensive fruits, like avocados, as cheaper ones like carrots or onions. Some customers rang up over 40 lbs of “carrots” in one trip; and unless you’re Bugs Bunny, something just doesn’t add up. The tactic has resulted in over $4 million in supermarket theft in the past four years.
Emmeline Taylor, a professor of criminology at the University of London, first studied this phenomenon at an Australian grocery store before realizing it was endemic all across Britain. According to the receipts of one store, she found that customers were purchasing more “carrots” than the supermarket ever had in stock. People were even ringing up their expensive produce as vegetables the store didn’t carry, like one man who admitted weighing groceries as “loose onions” on multiple shopping trips. Turns out, the store didn’t even sell loose onions, yet the item appeared on the kiosk’s standardized self-checkout list. He was charged with stealing nearly $600 in groceries from a Sainsbury’s supermarket in London over the course of three months.
With the advent of self-checkout machines in the UK and around the world, there’s no doubt that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Especially when it comes to food, wherever there’s a loophole, you can bet there are hungry shoppers willing to exploit it.