Casual Theft And Self-Serve Checkouts: Peas In A Pod

Words by: Zac Duggan

After their emergence in 2009, self-serve checkouts have been the catalyst for a very different shopping experience in Australia. Robot voices of, “if you have a flybys card, please scan it now” echo around busy checkout areas. Not for the trolley pushers, the anti-technology squad or the receipt checking, catalogue readers. Self-serve checkouts are primarily directed at Generation Y, who have easily adapted to this video game style of shopping. Love them or hate them, self-service checkouts have put an end to awkward conversations and resulted in an empowered line of people that just want to scan, pay, and leave.

Companies have chosen to put customers in control of the checkout, so they must expect some implications. A study conducted by the website Voucher Codes Pro in the UK asked 2634 people about their shopping habits and use of self-service checkouts. The study found that more than half admitted to stealing on at least one occasion and 19 percent acquired a five-finger discount regularly.

It seems to be a moral grey area: From talking to people about this issue I have come across the same kind of justifications for their ‘casual theft’. One of conscious rebellion against the companies that are “ripping us off anyway” and “we have to serve ourselves! Why shouldn’t we get a discount?”

But what has been deemed “casual theft” seems to have had little impact on the two big grocery corporations, as profits have continued to climb since the beginning of assisted checkouts. Last 2012-2013 financial year, Coles recorded revenue of $36 billion while Woolworths netted $59 billion.

So I want to start the conversation: How many people are giving their own personal discounts? Why do people talk more about Kim Kardashian then the implications of billions of dollars of casual theft per year? If McDonalds said you could make your own burger would you throw on a few extras for free if you could? Yeah. Probably.