How To Reduce Self-Checkout Theft: 11 Security Tips and Tools

Grocery store profit margins aren’t generally the biggest. On average, grocery stores have a profit margin between one and three percent. With margins like these, you can’t afford to lose a lot of product to theft. 

Imagine this scenario: You’ve just implemented self-checkout kiosks in your store. It’s a busy Saturday, and hundreds of customers are coming and going, picking up their essentials for the week. At the end of the day, you notice you’re short on several expensive items. None of your traditional cashiers reported issues. Most likely? The self-checkout lanes are the root of the problem.

So, the solution is to not offer self-checkout at all, right? Not so fast! 

This post will walk you through the basics of how to reduce self-checkout theft, giving you all the tools and information you need to enjoy the benefits of self-checkout without drowning in shrinkage!

How Common Is Self-Checkout Theft?

Self-checkouts are fast becoming a fixture in many grocery stores. 

Retailers, big and small, are implementing kiosks to streamline the checkout process and offer a convenient way for customers to pay. Self-checkout kiosks provide contactless payment options and reduce time waiting in lines — and 73 percent of consumers prefer them over staffed checkout lanes.

And the benefits for retailers are clear: One attendant can monitor upwards of six  self-checkout machines, reducing labor costs, and lanes can be easily added to meet demand and shut down when not needed.

There are also downsides. Chief among them is self-checkout theft. In fact, self-checkout theft is five times more likely than traditional cashier checkout theft due to scanning inaccuracies, swapping items, and intentional shoplifting.

20% of customers admit to self-checkout theft, and the study found that theft accounts for nearly $4 billion in losses each year. So how can you manage self-checkout theft and protect your profits? Let’s find out.

Common Types of Self-Checkout Theft 

First, let’s look at the common ways savvy customers commit theft.

  • Switching items: A shopper scans a lower-cost item and then swaps it out for a more expensive item they don’t pay for.
  • Batch scanning: Thieves may scan just one unit of an item sold in bulk, like berries or tomatoes. Over time this adds up to major losses.
  • Bypassing: Some brazen shoppers don’t check out at all and leave the store. This is essentially regular shoplifting but can be easier when self-checkout lanes are available.
  • Forgetting: A six-pack may be purposefully buried under heavier items, hoping it goes undetected. This can sometimes be a legitimate mistake, but it's often a deliberate act.
  • The “banana trick”:  Sneaky shoppers may switch stickers from cheaper produce to higher-priced meat, seafood, or organics. The “banana sticker on a steak” trick fools scales.

Being aware of these common ways dishonest shoppers steal is step one to limiting retail crime.

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Tips To Reduce Theft 

While no solution will completely eliminate self-checkout theft, there are best practices you can implement.

Posting friendly greeters near exits might deter potential shoplifters from walking out with unpaid merchandise. A friendly “Thank you, have a nice day!” to every customer maintains a positive tone and might make would-be thieves think twice.

Related Read: 4 Ways Self-Checkout Saves Grocers Money

Another simple deterrent is random receipt checks as shoppers exit the store. Staff can politely ask to look at receipts and confirm the scanned items match what’s in shoppers’ bags. It only takes seconds, but the prospect of spot checks might curb customers’ enthusiasm for risk-taking.

To increase accountability, you can also try mounting security cameras directly on self-checkout kiosks. Signage can let shoppers know they’re being recorded to prevent switching items or theft. Petty criminals thrive when they can be anonymous, so demonstrating that you can trace theft directly to them is an effective deterrent.

Next, self-checkout kiosks equipped with integrated scales help prevent scanning tricks. You can verify the measured weight of items matches what is rang up. For example, if a shopper tries to switch out steaks for cheaper produce, the weight mismatch can trigger an alert.

Last, uniformed security personnel stationed directly in self-checkout areas adds an extra layer of oversight to reduce inventory shrinkage. Being actively watched by security guards discourages would-be thieves from trying tricks. Guards can also assist customers if needed.

Can Your Staff Help?

Yes! You can train your staff to look for typical signs of self-checkout theft. They can look for customers who appear nervous, spend an unusually long time at the checkout, or constantly look around as if checking for staff presence.

You can also train staff to spot when a customer might “double scan” a cheaper item instead of a more expensive one or “miss” scanning certain items altogether. Make sure you train your staff to intervene respectfully and discreetly to avoid conflict.

Using signage, video messages, or even checkout screen reminders, communicate the consequences of theft to your customers. Inform them that theft increases prices for everyone and that your store takes theft seriously. Keep your tone friendly and informative, not accusatory.

Security Tools You Need 

You can use various tools, depending on your store’s size, number of self-checkout lanes, and budget. Consider the following:

  • Security cameras: Position them prominently over self-checkout areas and use clear signage to highlight they’re always recording. Real and “dummy” cameras act as deterrents.
  • Analytics software: Some advanced software can detect irregular activities like skipping scans and notify store staff to intervene.
  • Barriers: Install physical barriers to guide traffic in and out of self-checkout areas. You could have turnstiles or scanners at the exit, too.

IT Retail provides state-of-the-art self-checkout kiosks for the modern grocer. For optimal performance, you can switch between cashier-assisted and self-service modes. Having both options give you more security; you can switch to cashier-assisted during busy periods to limit theft. 

Related Read: 4 Reasons To Implement Self-Checkout at Your Grocery Store

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Reduce Self-Checkout Theft and Increase Profits 

The tips in this post will give you the basics you need to start protecting your stock while still offering customers the convenience and autonomy provided by self-checkout machines. 

However, as you’ve probably come to see throughout this post, without the right tools in place, you’ll have a hard time managing your self-checkout system and security effectively. IT Retail’s comprehensive self-checkout solutions include advanced technology like weight verification, internal security doors, remote attendant access, and more. 

Schedule a free demo of IT Retail’s software solution today to see if it’s the right solution for your store!