I wrote recently about my experience using handheld scanners at my local Stop & Shop supermarket. I praised the technology for eliminating waste from the shopping process by reducing the extent to which groceries are handled.
Dwane Lay, who writes a blog called Lean HR, posted a comment raising a logical question: How does the supermarket guard against theft? Since the system involves the shopper taking an item, scanning it and putting it directly into a bag, how do you know if a shopper puts an item in the bag without scanning it?
Dwane noted that some self-service systems are based on product weight. I believe that is true with Stop & Shop’s self-service lane, but it doesn’t seem to be the case with the handheld scanner. There is no special technology on the shopping cart, and the cart itself is not weighed.
Use of the handheld scanner is allowed only after you scan your frequent shopper tag. So the store knows who is using the scanners, and presumably could spot any shopping patterns (or change in shopping patterns) that would suggest something is wrong. However, that is just speculation on my part.
Since I didn’t know the answer, I contacted Stop & Shop. I traded emails with Faith Weiner of their PR department, who wrote “We are comfortable with our in store security system and do not comment on how it works as that jeopardizes the integrity of the security and the shopping experience itself.”
So for now, I still don’t know the answer. Are there any retail security experts out there who can offer some insight?