Study: Self-checkouts make stealing more convenient

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Self-checkouts can be pretty convenient.

They cut down long lines, make the whole checkout process faster, and apparently make it easier to steal.

That's according to a recent report.

Professor Adrian Beck and Dr. Matt Hopkins of University of Leicester in England did a study on retailers throughout Europe and the U.S.

It found that self-checkouts may generate significant retail losses in four ways:

  1. Intentional theft.
  2. Accidental theft caused by scanning errors.
  3. Physical and verbal abuse against staff generated via audit checks or system errors.
  4. Transaction frauds.

The report goes on to say that these devices make intentional theft easier and more comfortable because there's no human contact.

And if an offender gets caught stealing, he or she can just blame it on faulty technology.

The lack of human contact also makes it easier for thieves to use stolen credit cards or fake coupons.

Additionally, it makes accidental theft more likely. An innocent shopper – who just wants to get out of making small talk with the clerk – might push the wrong button and end up bringing home a free item or two.

Those aren't just theories either. The study that looked at retailers and losses between 2013 an 2015 found that self-checkouts increased store losses by more than 122 percent.

The self-checkout lanes create about 4 percent loss – that's about twice as much as the standard lanes.

Does the honor system work?

Self-checkouts aren't the only things that run on the honor system.

Minnesota's Metro Transit kind of works the same way.

Last year, an audit found that the system loses thousands of dollars because people just don't pay.

Between 4.6-9 percent of passengers weren't buying tickets for the Green Line (roughly $11,000 to $22,000 in lost revenue weekly), while only 2.6-3.6 percent of riders weren't paying on the Blue Line (that’s $4,662 to $6,456 in lost revenue every week).

But experts say expensive turnstiles probably won't fix the problem.

New York has them but a 1994 audit found 2.3-2.6 percent of passengers still don't pay their fare.

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