Shoppers are stealing expensive avocados by passing them off as carrots at self-service tills, it has been claimed.
The suspected shoplifting scam involves scanning carrots – one of the cheapest vegetables by weight – instead of the more expensive avocados in order to save forking out on them.
Emmeline Taylor, a senior lecturer in criminology at City, University of London, said people either switch labels or deliberately input the wrong item in order to pay less for produce.
She told The Times that she first spotted the trend in Australia and it is seems to also be happening in Britain.
She said: “I was working with retailers to reduce shoplifting when one major supermarket discovered it had sold more carrots than it had ever had in stock.
“Puzzled by this development it looked into its inventories and found that in some cases customers were apparently purchasing 18kg of carrots in one go.”
“Unfortunately this wasn’t a sudden switch to healthy eating, it was an early sign of a new type of shoplifter.”
She said that product switching has become so common in the UK that some people doing it had forgotten that they were committing a crime, adding: “This behaviour is perceived as cheating the system or a way of ‘gamifying’ an otherwise mundane routine.”
More than £3 billion of goods are estimated to be stolen through Britain’s 50,000 self-service tills each year, The Times reported.
Theft from unmanned checkouts has more than doubled over the past four years, according to reports.