Remove humans from the equation and self-service shoplifting is the result

One in five of us knowingly shoplifts at the electronic till


I was in Waitrose yesterday. Buying two cheap items (pillows, on special offer), and a pricey one, namely a bottle of bubbly for a special occasion. I walked up to the self-service tills. At which point I might well have thought about slipping the bottle of champagne into the giant pillow bag. And walking out, thus saving about £30. Apparently this is more common than you think. VoucherCodesPro has conducted a survey which found that self-service tills are turning us into a “nation of shoplifters”, half-inching around £1.7bn worth of goods a year. One in five of us knowingly shoplifts at the self-service till.

While acknowledging that shops will come down on you like the proverbial if you are found guilty of deliberately putting so much as an orange in your bag without paying for it, and thus the question of whether stealing it is worth the heart-thumping stress, perhaps one should consider the nature of the self-service till itself, as one whose innate design means it is easier to stray from the moral compass.

Buying at a self-service till, all bleeps and buttons and strange weighing areas, is certainly a more irritating transaction than going up to an actual person, sitting at a till. Its liquid crystal demands might make you rather resentful of using the shop in the first place. Furthermore, the arrival of the self-service till usually means the disappearance of the (costlier) human version, hence more profits for the shop, hence more justification to steal from it, some might think.

This is all quite thought out, however. And shoplifting isn’t always so considered. Possibly it is the essentially private transaction involved in the self-service till, which makes stealing from it altogether easier. After all, who is going to see you tap in “One Banana”, when in reality you are bagging half a dozen of them? There is much less shame in actually taking your food to a till, and “forgetting” to pay for a jar of coffee than hiding in an aisle and slipping said jar of coffee into your bag. And if you are apprehended, you can always point to the fact that you are indeed at a till and you simply forgot to pay – the traditional excuse, updated for these automated times.

Because the thing is that when human interaction is at work, honesty seems to bounce back into the system. Take eBay. You post a picture of something nice, online. An actual person, probably unknown to you, but still someone with an identity and an address, buys it. Their money arrives in your PayPal account. You wrap up that nice thing, and send it off to Aberdeen, or Tavistock, or wherever. You don’t simply not send it. Or send something inferior. I have bought and sold loads of things on eBay. I have never been ripped off. Once I harangued a seller because I couldn’t find the screws on a chest of drawers I had bought. To my shame I later discovered she had packed them neatly in a drawer for me.

How about my latest hobby – house swapping? What a leap of faith, what an investment of trust. No, you don’t swap credit cards. You do, however, swap a lot of emails. You may never meet your swapees, but you will sleep in their beds, wash in their bathrooms, eat off their plates. You get to know them in a wholly intimate manner. Plus, they have allowed you to have a free holiday. Are you going to trash their home? Of course not. They could trash yours. But nobody ever has done. Quite the reverse, actually. Last time, our guests did a whole spring cleaning job on the kitchen. They even put noise-cancelling pads on the legs of our kitchen chairs. You want to discuss shame? That was shameful.

Good riddance, January

Was there ever such a grim accumulation of days as the last 31? Thank goodness January is over. It’s been bad. Firstly, the guilt. The diet sheet on the fridge door, ignored as said door is opened in frantic search of a sausage roll. Then, the dull knowledge that every glass of alcohol is a) forbidden and b) a move towards the slippery slope of obesity, alcoholism, diabetes or all three.

For us parents, there was the demonisation of ALL sugar and the information that Cheerios contain vitamins culled from fatty strands of sheep wool. Then, the exercise, or should I say, the non-exercise. Too cold, too windy, too damn wet.

I took to eating Nutella. Out of the jar. Oh, the boredom! We finished the box set of Breaking Bad. We don’t have Netflix for the prequel, and we have lost six tiles from the Scrabble bag, which Mr Millard says renders all my Christmas victories null and void. There’s no money, thanks to a mighty tax bill thundering in today. And newspaper previews of the World Cup have already started to appear. I want a holiday.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Ventilation Cleaning Operative

£15600 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping child abuse taking place right now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower