A lawyer on TikTok is urging folks to reconsider using the self-checkout lane after sharing how even folks who are going about their retail shopping business in a perfectly legal manner can find themselves in trouble at the scan-your-own-item kiosks.
Carrie (@carriejernigan1) broke down the three types of instances of self-checkout theft accusations she's come across in her time as a legal representative, and that shoppers who are completely innocent can often find themselves being put through the ringer.
In her video, Carrie advises "most people to steer clear of self-checkout," and delineates why in her clip.
"There's currently three groups of people getting charged with shoplifting using self-checkout. The first group of people that are getting charged with shoplifting using the self-checkouts are the people that are going into the stores with the intent to steal."
She broke down that this first demographic of self-checkout users is fully aware of their intent to try and pilfer items utilizing the self-service kiosks. "When self-checkout first started it was a very basic theft approach. They would scan a few items that they planned to pay for, and then they would drop a few items that they did not plan to pay for in their sack they would leave the store and just hope for the best."
Carrie said that while this rudimentary approach to theft in the self-checkout lane may've worked once upon a time, these days, advanced security systems that are being installed in popular retailers like Walmart are preventing folks from utilizing their five-finger discounts.
"The system is too good to do something that simple. So they come into the store with a very specific plan on what they are stealing, what they plan to use to conceal when they are attempting to scan, many times people will come in with bar codes taped to their hand and they are lesser codes on an item that is much more expensive and it has become much harder for asset protection to be able to identify these thefts."
She said, however, there are a number of folks who accidentally end up stealing items at the self-checkout counter completely by accident. "These are the people I genuinely think just forgot to scan an item. It is usually something that was on the bottom rack of the cart or say a DVD that has slid under the purse and when they're walking out asset protection stops them."
Carrie added that during the early days of self-checkout, in her experience, the majority of customers who simply forgot to scan items that they may have forgotten about in their cart ultimately were either allowed to go back to the self-checkout kiosk to scan their item and pay for it, or the item was taken away by the asset protection employee and the customer went on their merry way.
She said that as a result of the "first group" of thieves that ultimately retailers are fed up with trying to suss out the bad actors from folks who just made an honest mistake and that they will persecute everyone equally in order to save time. If you're shopping while a bit distracted or feel that you aren't the most punctilious of people, or maybe you just don't trust the self-checkout machine to accurately scan your items, this could be reason enough to stop using self-checkout machines altogether.
"They are just taking a 'tell it to the judge,' approach," she says of this second group of people, before going onto the third classification of self-checkout shopper she says she comes across in her work.
"The third group of people getting charged I will just call the truly innocent and most of these are not getting charged day of, it is something that say asset protection is doing a quality control check or inventory weeks, days, months later comes up short so they will begin watching hours of video to see the last person who checked out with the Mario Lego set because they're too short."
Carrie continues to say that these innocent shoppers just so happen to get the last person purchasing an item that was stolen or missing from a store's inventory and that they are now being wrongfully charged despite not stealing a darn thing from the store: whoever was watching the video just decided that they would start with them.
"For some reason they pinpoint that they think you did it. And because of who these big box stores are, they usually have to present very little evidence to get an affidavit for warrant signed the charges that could land you up to a year in jail, get filed, and you are fighting for your life trying to determine what date you were at Walmart, what all you bought, you have to spend thousands of dollars hiring a lawyer and we have to go through grainy video footage to try to determine what all you bought that day."
The TikTok user goes into the weeds of just how pedantic a legal team has to get when it comes to the items that the customer's were scanning on the self-checkout counter footage: "Was that Great Value mayonnaise? Or was that Hellman's mayonnaise to determine if the price is correct or incorrect and you are then having to prove your innocence."
She says that the problems are compounded even further if the customer in question "paid cash" for their items "because that's even harder to show what you paid versus what they are claiming got paid or did not get paid for."
She says that even when legal teams can work with a client to prove to the judge that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the customer, that at this point, the "damage" has already been done, i.e., an innocent customer was still subjected to being harangued by the judge and what should've been a simple shopping run turned out to be a nightmare.
One commenter said that the Walmart they shop at near their house is unfortunately one that is 100% self-checkout: "Unfortunately there’s a Walmart near my house that is 100% self-checkout so we don’t have a choice."
Others remarked on how unfair it seems corporations are being so eagle-eyed of customers in the self-checkout lane: "So they force us to do their job and then want to charge us when we were never trained… perfect."
Someone else joked about some of the methods Carrie mentioned in her video about the crafty ways crooks get away with scanning items in the self-checkout lane while stealing other, high-priced offerings: "I am clearly not a criminal bc when you said the barcode taped to hand I was like wow that’s good! Never thought of that."