It isn’t theft….is it?

Self-checkout stations in stores and supermarkets, you hate them or love them. I love them, for a lot of reasons. I am getting old, and that means I buy increasingly more embarrassing things for physical conditions like constipation, gas and (someday, not yet) leaky bladder. Why should I allow that foxy young female checker to see all that? But the main reason I like self-checkout is that there are rarely lines, and the slowest kind of people (i.e. the old lady who has to fish in her overstuffed purse for small change or, God forbid, a checkbook! There’s this thing called a debit card now lady….) usually require human checkers. So it’s faster, and I get to overcome my temptation to steal.

Okay, I said temptation, not the act! Self-checkout theft can lead to some really tortuous rationalizations. An article in The Atlantic magazine banana trick, featured a Reddit discussion thread, “Anyone who pays for more than half of their stuff in self checkout is a total moron,” reads one of the more militant comments in a Reddit discussion on the subject. “There is NO MORAL ISSUE with stealing from a store that forces you to use self checkout, period. THEY ARE CHARGING YOU TO WORK AT THEIR STORE.” Darn, why didn’t I think of that, yesterday when I easily could have failed to scan a few items at the Walmart where the lady at the exit always waves me through without even looking at my receipt? The article said that normally honest people, who would run after you to give you the $20 bill you dropped, are more prone to stealing when they rationalize they are cheating a machine–the scanner–rather than a person–the checkout clerk. 

The article cited a study by Leicester U. that said that for $21,000,000 items self-scanned there were $805,000 taken without scanning. That’s 3.83%, and is probably low. Here are some excerpts The Daily Mail article called “Are you a swiper?” The comments are from psychologist Emmeline Taylor. Shoppers who steal groceries by not scanning them at supermarket self-service checkouts now have a name – they’re called ‘swipers’. A staggering 33 per cent of customers regularly steal through the do-it-yourself checkout area, with fruit and vegetables and breads highest on the list for ‘swipers’. ‘Shrinkage’, the cost of people stealing including the ‘swiping’ at do-it-yourself checkouts, costs the retail industry an estimated $US 119 billion each year. So some swipers are ideological and say they steal because they (the supermarkets) are big corporations who have made everyone redundant, and they rip off farmers. People can sometimes do this accidentally, and once they got home they realise they have not paid for the goods and start thinking ‘how easy was that?’ Individuals can steal up to 95 times before they are ever apprehended.

I admitted I was tempted from time to time, but have never stolen an item. I am extremely uncreative with rationalizations to dishonesty, but more importantly, as Proverbs 15 states, The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. The eyes of the Lord see all–that gives my temptations pause–and I would rather have the tongue of the wise than pour out folly–though we call it rationalization.