Retail Customer Experience: Using Associates to Reduce Self-Checkout Theft
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.
While video analytics and other technologies may be the ultimate answer to reducing theft at self-checkouts, staffing the areas and training promise a quicker path to stem any losses.
It may seem like an oxymoron to hire employees to run self-checkout, but the solution was never designed to run without humans. A typical configuration of four or six kiosks next to one another calls for one employee monitoring the area.
"They are supposed to have that person standing there helping the customer, but a vast majority of these theft issues occur when they’re pulled away to bag groceries or something," said Bill Alford, president of International Lighthouse Group, a risk management firm. "That’s when you get blatant theft."
The employee also must know what types of theft occur at the self-checkout. One common trick is pretending to scan an item; another is not even bothering with the scanning ruse and directly moving the item from the cart to the bag.
It’s true that most checkout kiosks have components that weigh products and will note a discrepancy, for example, if something costs $1, and it weighs 20 pounds. However, each machine has a "skip bagging" feature that thieves use to their advantage, Mr. Alford said.
Price switching and entering the wrong PLU codes are also common. Price switching occurs when shoppers simply scan a cheaper item but then put a more expensive item in the cart.
Entering multiple PLU codes of the same product should be another red flag to retailers. For example, most shoppers don’t buy six bundles of bananas, but thieves will use those PLU codes and then take more expensive items, Mr. Alford said.
They also need to know how to approach a possible thief and understand that there’s no need to confront a customer in an accusatory tone.
"You should treat all customer interaction as a service," he said. ‘If you see a product in the cart you say, ‘Oh here let me help you; I think you forgot about this.’ "If you see someone pick up a product and pretend to wave it over the scanner and put it in the cart you say, ‘Oh, let me help you with that. It needs to beep.’ Don’t try to catch them, try to help them."
Discussion Questions: What role should associates play in reducing theft at self-checkouts? Of those mentioned, which suggested uses of store employees at self-checkouts are the easiest/most challenging to implement?