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New self-service checkout tech slammed as being ‘dangerous’

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A SUPERMARKET chain has a radical new plan to ramp up security at self-service checkouts in hopes to combat theft.

Since the scanners were first introduced almost a decade ago, customers have been abusing them, largely by putting expensive items through as much cheaper products.

Recently, a German backpacker was fined $100 for stealing meat from a Woolworths self-service checkout after he said he was too poor to afford groceries for a friend’s birthday barbecue.

A man in Munich, Germany was fined $A326,000 for a self-service checkout scam involving expensive meat scanned as cheap fruit.

And a Queensland mum was given a suspended sentence for an elaborate self-service checkout scam that enabled her to steal $4500 in groceries from Coles and Woolworths using photocopied barcodes from two-minute noodles packets.

To help combat issues like this, UK supermarket chain Tesco will be introducing new CCTV at self-service checkouts, which will be similar to a number of stores across Australia that have been using camera and video technology to capture a bird’s eye view of customers at checkouts.

Unlike the technology that has been operational in Australian stores since late last year, the Tesco CCTV will not only record the bagging area, but it will also broadcast the face of the customer on a screen above the checkout in the hope to crack down on shoplifters.

The company has announced it will begin the trial in a small number of stores — but not all customers are pleased with the extra security measures.

Mother-of-five Vicky Morrell suggested the cameras would do more harm than good, with honest shoppers put off by the beefed up security.

“The new CCTV cameras could be dangerous, especially if you are using bank cards and if you have kids as well because you don’t know who is behind the screen watching it,” she told Stoke Sentinal.

“It’s a bit much for me. I can respect the reason for them bringing it in but there are alarms and they could do random checks.

“I would be much more comfortable with that than seeing yourself on a screen. But if you haven’t done anything wrong you haven’t got anything to hide.”

Sarah Barlow, 40, shared her sentiment.

“This is very over the top. People will steal no matter what, even if a camera is watching them. I don’t think sticking my face on a camera is a good idea. I much prefer going to see a person on the till and having a chat rather than using the self-service till.”

The news comes months after a new technology was developed in Australia to help wipe out cheating at self-service check-outs.

Tiliter Technology has developed the brains to drive “smart checkouts” which automatically identify a product so customers can’t cheat the system.

Co-founder Chris Sampson said the technology uses a camera to identify the product and then automatically enters the information into the point-of-sale system.

“It’s based on machine learning and artificial intelligence which has been taught to recognise different types of fruit and other products,” he told news.com.au.

“The big value for supermarkets is removing the significant loss seen from people entering the wrong information when using self-service checkouts.

Mr Sampson said the technology was so smart it could even tell the difference between varied products from the same family.

“Our tech is different from some of the stuff we have seen struggle in the past because it can tell the difference between a red delicious and royal gala apple for example,” he said.

The concept is currently being trialled across a number of independent grocers, and the company is in talks with “several large players in the fresh produce and grocery space” to explore the possibility of expanding to them later this year.

Theft costs Australian retailers $9.3 billion per year — or 3 per cent of total annual turnover — with self-service checkout theft accounting for a decent proportion of this.

The Australian Retailers’ Association’s executive director Russell Zimmerman said these technologies were going to be a godsend in the battle against theft.

“Buyer beware. If you risk it, you are going to get caught and you need to expect the force of the law to come down on you,” he said.

“Retailers need to up the ante to ensure they capture everything that they possibly can to eliminate the cost of retail theft in their stores.”

When asked if Woolies would consider following Tesco’s lead, a spokesman told news.com.au: “Self-service checkout is an incredibly popular option for customers short on time, and we know the vast majority of shoppers do the right thing when using them. Of course, we have comprehensive security measures in place for those that don’t.”

Coles also wouldn’t comment directly on Tesco, but a spokesman said: “Our focus is on providing convenience and choice along with shorter queues, while allowing our team members to stay on the shop floor to assist customers. When customers are only buying a few items, we’ve found that assisted self-scanning checkouts are actually twice as fast as traditional checkouts. Like many retailers we are working with police to reduce shoplifting and have a range of security measures in place to reduce theft from our stores.”

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