Oz chain trials fewer self-checkouts to fight carrot-swiping theft

A Coles supermarket is seen, with blurred shoppers wheeling carts outside Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The move by Coles comes months after it announced a crackdown on shoplifting

A major Australian retailer is limiting self-service checkouts in an attempt to reduce shoplifting.

Last year, Australian research suggested a widespread practice of scanning expensive items as carrots to "trick" the automatic system.

Coles will limit self-service checkouts to 12 items or fewer at some stores as part of a trial.

The supermarket chain said the limit would make checkout faster for customers.

Last year, the company announced that it was targeting self-checkout shoplifting, with New South Wales police pledging to pursue people over amounts as small as A$2 (£1.22).

At the time, a spokeswoman told Australian media that about half the people it caught shoplifting were doing so through the self-service checkouts.

The practice of "swiping everything as carrots" happens when shoppers take expensive items - such as grapes or cherries - but tell the self-service checkout they're weighing cheaper carrots, onions, or potatoes.

Everything as carrots

If you were shoplifting by scanning your weighted items as carrots, you could save:

  • $5.50 on a kilogram of strawberries

  • $7.20 per kg of apricots

  • $28.50 on a kg of cooked king prawns from the deli


The scam was initially uncovered in 2012 when "a large supermarket chain in Australia discovered that it had sold more carrots than it had, in fact, had in stock", according to a research paper on the topic.

An English supermarket also found that its customers were buying unbelievable amounts of carrots - including "a lone shopper scanning 18 bags of carrots and seemingly nothing else".

Criminologist Emmeline Taylor from the Australian National University said those taking part in the scam would never normally steal, and often did not even think of it was shoplifting.

She coined the term "seemingly well-intentioned patrons engaging in routine shoplifting" - or swipers - to describe them.

Ms Taylor's research also reported that 83% of shoppers were annoyed by having an "unexpected item in bagging area" - and some occasionally shoplifted out of frustration with dealing with the machines.

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