Taking self-service to a whole new level

Are self-service checkouts tempting a lot of shoppers to turn into opportunist thieves?

The latest British consumer behaviour study reveals 20 per cent of shoppers regularly go rogue and rort the self-scanning system.

In the US, two grocery chains have recently ditched the DIY checkouts, on the back of mass-pilfering.

In Australia, the Retailers Association claims the rise of self-serve has spawned a new breed of thief who "gives themselves a discount." But in this country, neither Progressive Enterprises nor Foodstuffs will divulge data on the severity of self-serve swindling. However, a 2012 UMR Research poll claimed 15 per cent of Kiwis admitted stealing from a self-checkout.

Strictly for the purposes of this column, I tested out some common "self-serve cheating" techniques, at a Christchurch supermarket on Saturday. (I hasten to add, the entire transaction was promptly cancelled, post-testing).

Sure enough, weight-based fruit and veg selection pricing remains ripe for rorting - as is the particularly scurrilous practice of plonking your expensive toiletries in the same bag as your brussels sprouts, before it is duly weighed.

Despite the addition of extra anti-theft technology to the self-scan bays, it still seems remarkably open to abuse.

But you can bet your bottom dollar supermarkets are constantly weighing up the spate of leakage against the cost of fully-staffed checkouts. Whatever the theft rate is, it clearly hasn't reached a financial tipping point, yet.

The flag flap.

Forgive me St Peter for succumbing to temptation and entering the flag fray. The prime minister's kite-flying is no accident, but a strategic ploy to reaffirm his position as the torch-bearer for patriotism.

There are some fatal flaws in his push to supplant our brilliantly blue-bathed ensign, which speaks to our nation's foundation and the lustrous stars that watch over us, with a stark sports symbol, backed in bleak, funereal black. What is the world's reference point to a black flag, aside from fly-zapping and jolly rogering?

For much of humanity, it's the flag of death, the fanatical, fear-mongering ensign of al Qaeda and its hate-fuelled cronies. And the Jihadist flag, with its steely white Arabic script on a black backing, bears a most unfortunate likeness to John Key's preferred replacement. Far better for our current flag to be mistaken with Australia's.

Then again, isn't that much-hyped identity crisis simply a searing exposition of the dim-witted among us. It's a clinically efficient flag identification IQ test. Ask yourself. Would you trust someone with your flagpole, if they can't distinguish the difference between a cluster of six steely whites from four muted reds?

The Press