Are self-service tills really turning us into criminals?

Woman Shopping in Supermarket

A study has revealed that every year Britons use self-service tills to steal over £1.6 billion worth of items from the supermarket. It discovered that incredibly one in five people admit to using the tills to steal from the stores.

But how can this be possible?
The survey from discovered that 19% of people who had used self-service checkouts had stolen something. Over half of them (57%) said they did so regularly, and on average they take £15 worth of items a month.

The most common items stolen this way were revealed as fruit and vegetables (67%), bakery items (41%), confectionery items (32%) and toiletries (26%).


When asked why, 6% of people said it had been an accident, and that they thought they'd scanned something and hadn't realised their error until they got home. This is hard to believe - given that you cannot put something into your shopping bag without scanning it first - unless you perform some sort of sleight of hand.

Everyone else in the study knew full well what they were doing - which leaves an awful lot of deliberate criminal behaviour. By far the most common reason was that people had been trying to pay for something, but that they hadn't been able to get it to register, so had given up and stolen it instead. This reason was given by 57% of people.

We have all faced the frustration at the checkout when this happens. In some cases a member of staff is on hand to sort things out. But in other cases, when you have used the checkouts to speed up your shop, you don't have time to wait for help to arrive. The question here is why on earth people don't simply put the item back and walk away: why the frustration can be channeled so easily into criminal behaviour.


The next most common reasons are straightforwardly criminal. Some 51% of people, said that they did it because they thought they could get away with it; while 47% of people said that the machine was easy to fool.

One third of people, meanwhile, said they had stolen because they didn't have the money to pay for the goods honestly.

And the answers given by people who hadn't stolen from the tills were almost as alarming. Some 54% of them said the only thing stopping them was a fear of being caught.

George Charles, spokesperson for, said this sort of theft can be a slippery slope. He explained: "I'm sure most of those who now admit to stealing via self-service checkouts didn't initially set out to do so – they may have forgotten to scan something and quickly realised how easy it could be to take items without scanning them. No doubt there's an element of risk involved, but when people start stealing it can be difficult to stop - that is until you get caught - particularly when money might be tight."

But what do you think? Are we a nation of criminals who were just waiting for the opportunity to get away with it? Do we hate supermarkets so much that we feel no guilt in ripping them off? Was this just a simple mistake that snowballed? Or is this survey wrong?
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