self checkout thieves, SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, security guards

4 Secrets of Self-Checkout Thieves and How to Stop Them [Updated]

Americans don’t like standing and waiting in long lines at checkout. Therefore, about 90% will use self-checkout, especially if they are in a hurry or have only a few items.

Retailers are always looking at ways to reduce labor costs and redirect the savings to other areas of the business. Therefore, the addition of self-checkout lanes has made sense.

However, with the adoption of this technology, shoplifting has nearly doubled in grocery stores. The degree of theft and the types of techniques used to steal have changed too. Please also remember, because mask-wearing is more prevalent, it will be harder to identify the thief.

Here are four common shoplifter methods and what you, as a store owner or manager, can do to prevent them in the first place.

Banana Trick

This method of theft leverages the ignorance of the machine. The shopper scans a lower priced item’s barcode for a higher-priced item’s barcode (e.g., ringing up filet mignon at $14.00 per pound as bananas for $.59 per pound). The machine doesn’t know the difference between the two, so the lower per pound item is “passed off” as the higher-priced item.

Pass Around

Items that leave the conveyor belt and are placed in the bag without being scanned at all are stolen with the “pass around” method. In other words, the thief “passes” the item around the payment device while pretending to scan the item for payment.

The Cover-Up

This technique involves hiding items in the bottom of the cart. The idea is “out of sight, out of mind,” so why should the shopper pay for it? It is also a perfect way to deny any wrongdoing if caught, “I didn’t realize that item was there,” or “I would have paid for it, sorry!”.


This method involves a little more work before getting to the self-checkout device. Here the swindler removes the price sticker off lower price items and sticks it over a higher-priced item’s label. Successful “switcheroos” are only done with things that have close to the same weight, so the unexpected item in bagging area alert is not triggered, locking up the checkout screen and requiring management override.

Justification to Steal

Most people who steal from stores this way often justify their actions:

  • Why should I feel bad about taking a couple of items when the grocery store is cutting back on employees?
  • If the store is going to put me to work by checking out and bagging my items, why shouldn’t I get a little back?
  • It’s their fault for turning their back on the customer; it’s a natural reaction to making the shopping experience impersonal!

As retailers continue to lose money in self-checkout sections, other aspects of the business will begin to suffer if the stores do not compensate for the loss. So, what seems like an innocent “banana trick” today, could end up closing stores and increasing prices on goods tomorrow.

How to Stop Self-Checkout Thieves

  1. Hire a self-checkout security agent.

    Whether it’s an employee or an outside officer, putting an attentive person in place to cover two-three lanes can reduce customer theft by up to 90 percent. When customers feel they are being watched, they are more likely to be honest.

  2. Put in a security scanner scale.

    This helps prevent accidental shrinkage when a shopper mistakenly puts items in the bagging area without scanning them.

3.    Ensure all items in the store’s database have correct pricing.

4.   Don’t put impulse items near the self-checkout areas.

SACS Consulting Has a Self-Checkout Strategy

We can help your retail store alleviate external shrinkage. We have plainclothes security agents. Also, we can train your personnel on what to look for in a self-checkout thief. Call 330-255-1101 or contact us to speak with one of our professionals today.

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