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Self-Checkout Lane Shoplifting / Petit Theft

Petit theft is changing in Florida. The most common shoplifting allegations now arise out of shenanigans in the self-checkout lane. In this video, we’re going to review the different ways these situations turn into criminal cases.

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting through self-checkout lanes in Walmart or Target, you know how fun it is to scan your own items, bag your own items, and later you’re accused of a crime for making a mistake.

If you’ve forgotten to scan a few items it doesn’t seem like a big deal but its a crime. It’s shoplifting, petit theft and people are going to jail, getting probation, and getting a nasty, nasty criminal history.

Self-Checkout Lane Shoplifting / Petit TheftBut to be convicted of shoplifting, or what we call petit theft, from these self checkout lanes, they’ve got to prove that you intended to steal something. that’s a big burden for the state, because how do they ever prove this if just failed to scan a few items?

When that’s the case we have something called the “self-scan defense” where you can claim that you legitimately thought that you scanned this item so how can this be a crime?

The problem is, Florida law doesn’t tell us how many self-scan mistakes constitutes a crime, versus what counts as simple human error. I’m not promising you any math here but when you look at this mathematically, the more items you’re buying the greater the chances are that you’re going to make a mistake. And even cashiers at Target and Walmart make mistakes. These companies expect a certain number of mistakes from their employees.

So if your cart has 120 items, they might let once thing slide. But if your cart has 10 shirts in it and you only scanned and paid for 3 shirts you can expect to be greeted at the exit. Somebody is going to say “come with me” and they have probably already called the police.

Sometimes though, you do get lucky, and the store will do what is called the “soft play.” That’s where an employee comes up to you and says “let me help you with these shirts. These 7 shirts didn’t seem to scan properly.”

Remember this whole self-scanning problem is part of a larger loss prevention picture. They’re probably watching you before you even enter the area. They’ve got a “risky items” checklist because their computers predict what you’re likely to “not scan” before you’re even accused of doing it.

I think these stores are bragging about a technology that, to me, is just common sense. Because what they found is what we already know. Nobody is forgetting to scan a 39 cent cup of Ramen noodles. People are forgetting to scan the more expensive items in their basket.

We’re seeing four different self-scan, self-checkout theft scenarios. I want to run through those with you. The first is the most common, known as the “non-scanning theft”, where the customer pays for most of the cart and fails to properly scan a few items. Again, lights start blinking in the back room because they’ve got a detector that says somebody hasn’t scanned something. If they’re not too busy they’ll be waiting for you at the exit. They still have a tough road to prove that you intended to steal those items.

Other times, a theft occurs when folks will scan everything in their basket and then they just don’t bother to pay for anything. They bolt. It’s like a dine-and-dash and if they catch you you’ll come see me on that.

There’s also some problems in the self-checkout lanes with promotions and coupon theft. And finally, you have the “scan artists,” we call these folks “bar code swappers” and they’ll place counterfeit barcodes in front of legitimate bar codes to save a little money. This doesn’t work like it used to, but I’ve had clients put a $25 barcode on a $185 item and they saved a lot of money. They didn’t get away with it too much, because I’m telling you about it now.

So, these are some of the scenarios in the self-checkout lanes. Give a good local attorney a call because you’re going to need some help through this shoplifting / petit theft. I wish you luck, take care.

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