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Rich More Likely to Steal from Self-Checkout

Theft—or "shrinkage" as the retail industry calls it—is a big problem for stores that use self-checkout kiosks. The machines have created a new kind of "partial shrink" where someone pays for most of their stuff, but skips a few items.

One study revealed that about 6.7% of orders had some items that went unscanned (including accidentally)—far higher than the typical 0.3% shrink rate for a fully-staffed checkout. It might not surprise you that in a survey of 5,000 shoppers, the majority admitted to accidentally bagging an item that didn't scan at the kiosk.

But something the survey revealed that might be surprising? Wealthier people were most likely of all to intentionally steal, they told surveyors. Of people who admitted to stealing, the biggest group was among the 18% of people with household incomes of more than $100,000. (When considering people with household incomes under $35,000, 14% said they'd purposely taken an item without scanning it.)

Terrence Schulman a lawyer of the Schulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Shopping and Hoarding said, “I want to admit that I don't know what the truth is, but I'll give you a few theories”:

I think that a lot of people who are higher-income and more well-to-do probably aren't quite as delighted to have all this self-service kind of stuff, like checkout or having to pump your own gas. I'm generalizing, but maybe for wealthier people, it's just another hassle — or it's kind of beneath them. So that's one possibility: that it's kind of like a silent protest. Like, why do I have to do this?

Another thought is that scanning a $10 item for a wealthy person, that's like a penny to them. So, there's already a different kind of attitude about money.

There might be even a subconscious kind of thought of: “Hey, if I got caught, if I ever did get in trouble, I have the resources — I could hire an attorney, or I could call somebody. I know how to make something happen.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Having wealth often leads a person to an attitude of superiority, privilege, and a sense of being “above the law.” But all of us need to guard against making excuses for unlawful or immoral behavior as though we deserve it.


Katie Notopoulos, “Rich people are more likely to steal from self-checkout. Why?” Business Insider (12-26-23)

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