Huge changes planned for supermarket self-service tills to prevent thefts

Supermarkets will introduce advanced self-service technology in an attempt to reduce shoplifting.

A third of shoppers are estimated to fail to pay for all their items when using the unmanned tills, although not always intentionally - but thieves specifically use them to steal more expensive items.

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Retail experts say the industry is forced to consider advanced tech to prevent 'swipers' who are stealing over £500million worth of items a year.

What will the new technology do?

The new self-service technology can detect when an item in the bagging area is different to one scanned and can spot other suspicious patterns.

University of Leicester's Professor Adrian Beck works with stores to help them uncover the tricks some shoppers use. He has surveyed three thousand people on the changes.

He said the current tech works largely around weight, and the scanners "can't recognise" what each item looks like.

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Meaning, that people select cheap but heavy items such as onions but actually buy more expensive foods like bananas or avocados.

Or they pay for a bag of potatoes but take a bottle of champagne.

What has been said?

Professor Beck told the Daily Mail: "People make excuses for why they haven’t followed the rules such as 'there were problems with a barcode', or 'they made me use this machine and I tried my best but it didn’t work'."

The new system, already in use in some supermarkets, can even recognise the colour of an item.

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Professor Beck further said: "Other supermarkets have installed gates as you leave the checkout. If you scan the items but do not pay then the machine knows and will not let you through. A number of companies are trialling this."

Israeli tech firm SuperSmart has, meanwhile, developed a system that can weigh an entire trolley.

Professor Emmeline Taylor, who specialises in retail crime at City, University of London, coined the ‘swipers’ acronym, standing for "seemingly well-intentioned patrons engaging in routine shoplifting".

Speaking to the Sunday Times she said: "Self-service has created a new breed of shoplifter. Rather than seeing it as problematic, they get a buzz from it or see it as funny or socially acceptable in a way that you wouldn’t if you stole a piece of cheese from Tesco."

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A survey of 2,000 Brits, by, revealed one in three admitted to stealing items using the self-service checkouts in 2022 alone.

According to the survey, the items most commonly stolen are toiletries and hygiene products, fresh produce and baby formula. 

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