How honest again is big business?

“A 2015 study of self-checkouts with handheld scanners, conducted by criminologists at the University of Leicester, also found evidence of widespread theft. After auditing 1 million self-checkout transactions over the course of a year, totaling $21 million in sales, they found that nearly $850,000 worth of goods left the store without being scanned and paid for. The Leicester researchers concluded that the ease of theft is likely inspiring people who might not otherwise steal to do so…. As one retail employee told the researchers, ‘People who traditionally don’t intend to steal [might realize that] … when I buy 20, I can get five for free.’

The links are here and here, via The Browser.  And here is the deal on all those super-centenarians.


Self-checkout is a bad idea because it turns customers into unwitting workers but without pay or benefits. But like paid workers, there is more and better opportunity for grift. Yet a roughly 5% theft to sales rate might be worth the labor savings and ensuing tax writeoff especially in a low margin business like retail.

Most supermarkets have regular human cashiers if you prefer to use them. I actually prefer the self check out, usually it is faster and you get to pack stuff at your own pace.

On the theft rates, first how does these theft rates compare to regular shop lifting? And secondly this study was from 2015, maybe supermarkets have figured out better ways to manage the problem since then?

why don't you try crossing your fingers and wishing ChrisA!

Isso mesmo, as vezes é necessário expor muito com palavra simples de escutar,
como vi aqui nesse texto. Prosseguirei ler outro
item desse weblog.

Don't retail shops have people at the exits with markers in hand to double check the receipts?

That's really just at Costco.

And costco doesn't have self checkout, so this must be against employee theft assisting friends/family/ringers

Costco absolutely has self-checkout - maybe not in all clubs.

What they need is background checks. According to the MSM that fixes everything. FBI background checks and a week waiting period before you can buy food and clothing. That will fix it.

Interesting. I've never seen self-checkout at Costco although I have seen it at Sams Club. Both have "greeters" who check your receipts. At Home Depot they have people who appear to be watching what's on the screen and what's in your cart - I assume as a layer of fraud detection. And I do see police arresting shoplifters occasionally so they are catching some of them. At grocery stores though they do seem far more laissez fair. Target I'm not sure of. I think there are cameras watching the checkout line but I don't know what, at the security desk, they are actually doing.

Rename Border Patrol agents "greeters" and it will help defuse tensions down there

Sounds Orwellian. Making America "great again" I see.

They force you to stop and pose for cameras at the exit. Plus psychologically it gives you a sense that someone is watching and checking, which deters most people from theft.

Plus by checking everyone they don't have to worry about profiling people and being sued

I would expect that some of the savings would be passed along to the customers (it does seem like a competitive market). but i personally use self checkout because i hate interacting with some low skilled rude nobody.

What a customer pays at a supermarket now does not necessarily include the service of having someone check you out. That does not turn the customer into a worker without pay or benefits. Neither does getting my own water from a dispenser at a restaurant. The customer is not giving a business anything by doing something for himself.

People turn into crooks, because they hate the self check out. Because one is getting tired of having to do all the work where there used to be service, and thus I suspect many people feel entitled to a little extra.

If the store is gonna screw me, I am gonna screw them back.

Back in the day, the goods were behind the counter and the grocer got them off shelves for customers. In baseball, there's an old phrase ('can of corn') for an easy fly ball. It came from the way a grocer would pull cans off a high shelf with a stick and catch them in his apron. Do you think the supermarket approach (introduced by Piggly Wiggly in 1916) of customers going down aisles filling their own carts likewise turned them into 'unwitting workers'? Certainly, the self-checkout involves much less self-service than filling the cart in the first place.

And self-service gasoline. Where the "service" typically included smearing your windshield with a dirty rag, and slopping fuel down the side of your car (because the boss told them to always top-off your tank).

This study suffers both from a lack of controls and from being dated. Retailers and self-checks have become smarter in many small incremental ways since 2015 (although perhaps devious shopper-shoplifters have become smarter as well).

What about these new grocery delivery services? They have someone buy your groceries for you then deliver them to your house. But they charge extra! Why should they charge me extra for something they're supposed to be doing?

But they charge extra!

I know, right? First they make self-service optional (for your 'convenience'), and then -- those sneaky bastards -- they have the chutzpah to charge you extra if you want full-service! There's sooo much outrageous behavior by money-grubbing capitalists that it's really hard to keep track of it all.

It might be marginally faster - even that I doubt - but you have to do the work yourself. I'd much rather let some worker do this menial job for me while I (for example) read this blog

Ikea is making people furniture makers, etc The theft just gets translated into higher prices, which a moron like anonymous can then use to justify 20% of their items. He must be a liberal.

Different anonymous here. I love assembling Ikea stuff. I do it for anyone who asks. And when they are replacing older Ikea, I disassemble and reuse parts.

Wear a good dust mask when you cut any particle board though. VOCs.

'How honest again is big business?'

Well, according to Adam Smith, basically not trustworthy in the least, when looking at the normal practice of business to get involved in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices, Admittedly, trustworthy and honest may not be the same - one can safely assume that Smith always trusted business to be involved in actions that were not designed to benefit their customers.

A German expression actually covers the entire framework - 'Gelegenheit macht Diebe' or 'opportunity makes thieves.' This Sprichwort just might explain why Germans, who supposedly live in a high trust society if commenters here are to be believed, always lock their bicycles, cars, front doors (most front doors lock automatically when closed - door knobs of the American locked/unlocked style are unknown here), etc.

Give people an opportunity, and some will take it, even when enjoying merriment and diversion, as Adam Smith was well aware.

"Morality is a function of opportunity"

Big Business is very dishonest. AT&T is now being sued for selling your real time location to third parties including "bounty hunters, car dealerships, landlords and stalkers" despite their own written privacy policy stating exactly the opposite. I get that the group of libertarians here are the free market, pro-monopoly (although looks more pro-monopoly than free market to me) but as a civil libertarian I don't think you can put a price on freedom. The head of the FCC should get hauled in front of Congress for failure to address this blatant abuse of American right to privacy.

If you follow the Krebs link below, you'll also see SIM swap attacks which are so easy to pull off by bribing an insider at any major mobile service provider. So many accounts are linked to your cell phone that it is the single most important point of failure. People have been losing tens of millions of crypto from the criminal negligence of big businesses that fail to secure the property we entrust to them. Bank accounts are at risk because our financial system is too lazy to build a truly secure multi-factor authentication system that doesn't involve cell phones. The cost of customer pain doesn't outweigh the cost of upgrading and updating their systems. That's a damn shame.

Interesting to read the rationalizations in the Atlantic article: "There is NO MORAL ISSUE with stealing from a store that forces you to use self checkout, period. THEY ARE CHARGING YOU TO WORK AT THEIR STORE (Emphasis in original)." We hear the (mis-)use of the term "forces" in other contexts as well. Interestingly, the theft rate of 4% (850k on 21M) is about the same rate as a lot of sales taxes. Indeed, we have all heard similar rationalizations for this other kind of taking Other People's Money simply because one can.

Also, this from the study's authors: "In their zeal to cut labor costs, the study said, supermarkets could be seen as having created 'a crime-generating environment' that promotes profit 'above social responsibility'." So, it's "socially irresponsible" to trust customers, and the "crime-generating environment" is created by the crime victims rather than those that try to rationalize the crimes or perpetuate negative stigmas about the victims? Quite revealing about the anti-business sentiments of the authors.

Business aren't sending them to jail so this must be mutually beneficial because they know they save on labor costs and importantly health care costs, the true variable expenditure that rises every year, and most important of all, a jailed customer will no longer be a customer. Of course if the theft is too egregious they must be made an example to keep the rest in check. Cameras, greeters that check people leaving the store, and other security systems couldn't hurt.

I think I will help out the local grocer by bringing 100 of my dearest friends and empty out the shelves. It will be mutually beneficial and we are unlikely to be arrested. Oh, what a wonderful world. free stuff for everyone.

If there's one thing r-strategists are good at, it's rationalizing their behavior.

To paraphrase Mitt Romney, corporations are people too. By that he likely meant that corporations are a reflection of the people who work for them; if they are dishonest, so are the corporations. The study linked by Cowen suggests that a large cross-section of folks are dishonest, likely including some in high office like politicians and some in even higher office like pastors and some in respected professions like economists (I couldn't help myself).

Libertarians believe that self-interest will promote honesty by corporations (i.e., their people) in product design and manufacture and avoid the need for regulation, especially but not solely in industries like aircraft manufacturing: a dishonest manufacturer of an aircraft, one that produces a defective aircraft, would seal its own demise if it were to dishonestly produce a defective aircraft. Yet, Boeing knowingly produced a defectively designed aircraft, the 737 Max, so defective that it required the installation of a device to prevent the aircraft from stalling, the defective design creating a large risk that the aircraft would stall in normal flying conditions. [For those who haven't followed the story, Boeing used the existing 737 body, with its low positioned wings (that design works well in smaller airports), for an upgrade with much more efficient, but much larger, engines. Rather than redesign the aircraft, with wings higher off the ground to accommodate the larger engines, Boeing simply moved the engines forward on the wings and closer to the body of the aircraft, but doing so caused the nose of the aircraft to pitch up, creating a significant risk of stall. Why did Boeing do this? Two reasons: cost (using the old design saved the enormous cost of redesign including retooling) and time (using the old design meant getting the aircraft with more efficient engines to market before the competition.] Of course, the consequence of Boeing's dishonesty was catastrophic.
Notwithstanding having been caught in it own dishonesty,
Boeing continues its campaign of dishonesty, promoting the story that lax regulation caused Boeing's fatal decision to cut corners. Lax regulation, not of the defectively designed aircraft, but of the device (the MCAS) installed to offset the defective design; Boeing promotes this false story in the hope that Boeing will be allowed to put the defectively designed aircraft back in service rather than being required to redesign the aircraft (i.e., one with wings higher off the ground to accommodate the new, more efficient, but much larger engines). Boeing may be people too, but like the shoppers at the super market, dishonest people. The difference is that the dishonest people at the supermarket don't put thousands of honest and dishonest people at risk of death.

Boeing's idiocy wasn't in needing an anti-stall system. At cruising altitude, modern jet aircraft fly near the edge of stalling all the time. Air France 447 (an Airbus A330) crashed into the Atlantic. Why? Because the pitot tubes (which measure airspeed) all clogged with ice-crystals, causing the autopilot to disengage, and the pilots were unable to hand-fly the plane without stalling it. What happened in the 737 MAX crashes was somewhat analogous -- in that case it wasn't pitot tubes but rather angle-of-attack sensors that failed. With the 737 MAX, the criminal idiocy was making redundant angle-of-attack sensors an extra-cost option rather than standard equipment. So the failure of a single part was enough to cause the plane to think (incorrectly) that it was stalling and keep pushing the nose down. And then Boeing compounded this by insisting that extra pilot training was not needed. That's why Boeing is going to be paying billions (and deservedly so). But with redundant sensors (as is the case with U.S. carriers) and pilots that understand the system (which all 737 MAX pilots surely do now), I wouldn't be afraid to fly in them as is if they weren't grounded.

No, ice in the pitot tubes is not like an aircraft whose nose always pitches up while taking off and risks stall because of a defective design. If you wish to take your chances, fine, but what about the 99.99% of passengers who haven't a clue about the risk. Surgeons are required to obtain the patient's informed consent before a surgery. Should airlines be required to obtain the passenger's informed consent before taking off?

No, it's not the same, but there are similarities. At cruising altitude, the stall margin is small (flying in the so called 'coffin corner'). There would be a greater margin if airliners flew lower and slower where the air was thicker. But that would burn more fuel, take more time, and cost more money. It's a tradeoff we all accept and automated systems have made it statistically safe to do. The same is true, I believe, of the 737 MAX, but the automated system has to be done properly and, mostly importantly, there can't be a cheapo version without redundancy (whichever execs signed off on that decision, in my opinion, should be headed to prison).

In the case of Air France 447, basically the flight crew literally dropped the airplane into the ocean - it is amazing to read the actual accident report. (This is a summary - 'Thirty nine seconds after the AP disconnection, the stall warning was again activated, this time remaining continuously active. The response of the PF was to select TO/GA and maintain nose-up input. The recorded angle of attack continued to increase and the trimmable horizontal stabiliser (THS) moved from 3° nose-up to 13° nose-up in about a minute in response to pilot control inputs and then remained there until the end of the flight. It was determined that “in less than one minute after the disconnection of the autopilot, the aircraft became fully stalled and exited the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) Flight Envelope as a result of the actions of the PF”.

Having reached an altitude of 38000 feet, the aircraft began to descend fully stalled. As descent continued, and approximately 30 seconds after the fully stalled condition had begun, the aircraft commander re-entered the flight deck. During the following few seconds, all of the recorded airspeed indications became invalid and the stall warning stopped, after having sounded continuously for 54 seconds. The altitude was then about 35,000 ft, the angle of attack exceeded 40 degrees and the vertical speed of the descent was about 10,000 fpm. Pitch attitude did not exceed 15° and engine thrust remained close to 100%. After the aircraft commander had been present for 20 seconds, the thrust levers were reduced to Flight Idle. As the aircraft continued to descend in a fully stalled condition, “the angle of attack, when it was valid, always remained above 35°”. All recordings ceased 2 minutes and 46 seconds after the aircraft commander had re-entered the flight deck with pitch attitude recorded as 16.2° nose-up.',_en-route,_Atlantic_Ocean,_2009

Further, the pitot tube problem had been known for over a year, but Air France appears to have it could spend time and money elsewhere first.

In contrast, the Air Ethiopia crew, already aware of one fatal crash, followed (apparently, according to those actually in charge of the investigation) all of Boeing's instructions - and it made no difference.

"In the case of Air France 447, basically the flight crew literally dropped the airplane into the ocean"

Yep. But without functioning pitot-tubes/air-speed indicators and autopilot, it isn't easy to hand fly a jet at cruising altitude. It didn't take long for them to stall and get into an unrecoverable state. The point is that we're well into the era when we're dependent on automated flight systems (rather than seat of the pants pilot skills) for safety. And that's generally a good thing -- jet travel has gotten ever safer.

It doesn't worry me that the 737 MAX depends on an automated anti-stall system, but obviously the system must be done right and with necessary redundancy.

The thing about stall is that normally if you do nothing it resolves itself as the nose pitches down and the aircraft speeds up. Also the air gets thicker as you lose altitude. Often planes crash after stalling because the pilot keeps the nose up, instinctively.

Air Ethiopia crew could have disabled the system that was pushing the nose down, as the prior flight had. I think that was in the instructions but they hadn't trained on it.

Wouldn't you say that passengers are already keenly aware of the risks of flying? There is a reason why it is one of the most common fears.

I suppose passengers should be presented with design schematics for their review prior to boarding.

The Boeing 737 MAX issue isn't just lack of redundant sensors but the difficulty in disconnecting the MCAS system when it activates, and the extreme physical strength required to control pitch using the manual trim controls when MCAS is disconnected.

Historically Boeing has followed a conservative "the pilot can always over-ride the automation" design strategy, but in this case they did not.

Further, I think the option you mention didn't actually provide redundant inputs to the MCAS control, it just provided an on-screen warning when the two angle-of-attack sensors' outputs disagreed.

For Boeing it always made financial sense to do just one more iteration of the old design, not only because that was far less expensive than a clean-sheet project but because a major selling point has been that pilots who are type-certified to fly older versions of the 737 would not need to re-certify on the latest one.

Yet at some point ancient designs encrusted with layers upon layers of changes become difficult for anyone to fully understand, and sometimes tend toward instability. Boeing may well be flying into a full-blown crisis of confidence that could cripple it for years to come and, if it is, can Boeing management rise above petty day-to-day defensiveness and effectively deal with the problem?

At a minimum, there is a suspicion that Boeing management, dominated as it now is by "financial engineers" rather than aircraft engineers, has been penny-smart but pound-foolish in not funding a replacement for the 737 decades ago.

"Further, I think the option you mention didn't actually provide redundant inputs to the MCAS control, it just provided an on-screen warning when the two angle-of-attack sensors' outputs disagreed."

My understanding was that when the sensors disagreed, a warning was displayed AND the MCAS system was automatically disabled. It would have to be that way -- how would the system pick which of the two sensors to pay attention to and which to disregard?

A number of sources indicate that although the Boeing 737 MAX has 2 AoA sensors, the MCAS only takes input from one of them at a time. And, no, I don't know why Boeing would have designed it that way.

" the system acts on only one of two available AoA sensors"

"the MCAS system relied only on one of the aircraft's AOA sensors, the disagree light and AOA indicator would have given the flight crew visible evidence of a sensor failure and prompted them to disable the MCAS. But both of these features were sold by Boeing as expensive add-ons."

"the AOA sensor that is used for MCAS changes with each flight post power-up."

"some of the people who have worked on Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor — a type of sensor that was known to fail. Boeing’s rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors."

Wow. If that's correct, that's different than what I had read initially, and also that's effing nuts!.

Self-interest will promote honesty. Put in cases where the profit margins become thin or negative dishonesty will become more common. It is easy to be honest when your pockets are full. Government regulations that reduce margins will not make people more honest. Government regulations that increase margins by granting greater monopoly power can remove some forms of dishonesty while increasing others. But the monopoly power can lead to stagnation and worse outcomes.

People respond to incentives.

Some people steel. More people steel the easier it is. This says nothing about how honest big business is.

Headline News: "Economist notices that ordinary people rip off big business; uses this to question the honesty of big business. "

This article is about people who steal, not those who steel.

ah, I thought people were practicing their blue steels in the little cctv monitors

I’m not Steely...

Tyler is concerned about the plebs stealing bread. The real thieves in big business are now being brought to trial in Malaysia as they charge 17 members of Goldman Sachs for the 1MDB fraud perpetrated on their people. Malaysia is going to do what the United States of America failed to do and I hope they put them away for life. Submit them to Sharia law for all I care. Let's put the fear of God back into the money changers of Mammon. Crime does not pay.

What happened to Prof. Cowen? He quotes now the pessimists instead of the optimists.

Self-checkout can improve. The whole package of a product can be scanned with image recognition technologies (bye bye barcodes), the cost of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips is now at 10 US cents per unit and dropping.

So, 850K out of 21 million is ~4% loss. Inventory shrinking in the US is between 1~2%. 4% loss is not optimal but there should be a point where reducing the number of cashiers compensates shop-lifting. If better technology reduces self-checkout loses, it will win.

I use self-checkout every weekend for grocery shopping. Scan every product you put want and put it on re-usable grocery bags on the cart. At the end, scan another code at the automated cashier and pay with card. No need to take things out of the cart and put them back again in 1 min. Good for lazy people. Of course, I have no motivation to steal. My family food and alcohol budget is ~7% of monthly income =)

'What happened to Prof. Cowen?'

Well, it all started with a love letter to shark like entries .....

I did wonder if that 4% is in addition to, or just replaces the normal 1.5%

"What happened to Prof. Cowen? He quotes now the pessimists instead of the optimists."

It's 2019. Of course libertarians have a hard time developing a positive vision (eg for America). They believed strongly that free markets just get you there. Automatically. Wherever we are, if free markets did it, it must be the best of all possible worlds.

This goes double if billionaires or monopolies bought that future.

So what to do when that vision of freedom by markets trends toward degenerate billionaire-populism?

If you don't want to change your spots, you have to accept it as the best of all possible worlds. Which is a pretty bleak outlook.

Or you could break your mold a little bit, and support campaign reform or whatnot.

Please tell me how campaign reform could have prevented the will of the people in electing Trump

You mean the popular vote loss of course .. but skipping that.

In a rigorous system of public funding and equal time (no nonstop Fox coverage) I think Trump would have lost that popular vote harder. The campaign would have been more reasoned.

With public funding the Republican Senate would be less beholden.

With public funding the whole congress would spend more time working, rather than dialing for dollars.

You're worried about Fox when total coverage is like 90% against him. He beat Hillary, and the media combine. In a fair fight he would have had 60% of the vote.

I don't think I need to expand on it too much, but it's easy to see how 7x24 news channels, and no equal time rule, creates a structural advantage for populism. What makes easy ratings? Roaring crowds. What makes roaring crowds? Simple answers and simple villains.

It's not like CNN or Fox are going broadcast wonky episodes, resembling Marginal Revolution University, in preference.

It's not emotional enough. It doesn't cast Mexicans as rapists.

A little markets in freedom moment

(1) not all items are scanned correctly, therefore:
(2) customers are dishonest, therefore:
(3) big businesses are honest.

No, more like:

3. People in business (being people) are no more or less inherently honest than everybody else. The idea that common people are the salt of the earth while business-people are sharks preying on them is absurd. Also -- the probability of detection and punishment matters at the margin.

Or: once or as soon as the insecticide loses potency or efficacy, be sure to blame the cockroaches.

If big business is made up of people, and if people given the opportunity are widely dishonest, then big business won't come up smelling like roses.

Is it just me or has Cowen has jumped the shark recently? This is a textbook example of a logical fallacy we teach freshmen.

But to answer his question: the billions a year in wage theft suggests big business is not so honest.

Like the other lefties, he cleared the shark in early Nov 2016 and is still climbing.

Is it big business that is doing the wage theft? Fast food places or what?

I suspect that we are seeing another redefinition of words. Wage theft meaning not paying what someone wants. There are lots of ways to justify doing something that is wrong, and this is one of the ways.

How honest again is big business?

Compares favorably to academe and the legal profession.

Huge Understatement.

+ politicians (of all stripes) and deep state capos.

They fear and loathe President Trump because he is none of the above.

There is no native-American criminal class outside The Beltway.

There are two self checkout systems in the stores that i frequent. Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart. They are quick and no line ups. I don't think i would use it for groceries where you have many items. It would be easy to miss items, there isn't a conveyor to lay things out.

Walmart has staffed up the self checkout section. There is someone hovering over your shoulder all the time. The layout and equipment is almost designed to generate errors.

Shrinkage as it is called is substantial in retail. It is also one of these things that a decrease goes directly to profit minus enforcement costs. A grocery store i work in has a fellow with a basket wandering around in the high shrinkage areas. He is following all the white people around (I never believed a word Obama said after he complained about black people being followed in stores as racist. ). Obviously it pays. Another position in that same store is receiving. A fellow counts all the bread, drinks, etc delivered and his wages were more than covered by not paying for products not delivered.

Oberlin college may cease to exist because of their tacit support for shop lifting.

Already in the comments here are people excusing theft. And they are using the language of the left. Nice people all of them.


It's not just errors at checkout:
Just last weekend I was chatting with a re-stocker at my local Walmart. She was re-sticking items with price stickers -- because, she said, people remove a low-price sticker and apply it to a high-price item, and then take it through the self-checkout. The overseer at the self-check isn't familiar with the individual items & thus is unlikely to spot the switcheroo.
This store location has also beefed up its entrance/exit area to ensure better-controlled enter/exit traffic, and has more humans overseeing the self-check area.
The staffer said that this location has lost millions in shrinkage -- and with its low margins to start with, it simply has to try to control its inventory losses.
Human nature being what it is, I assume that there will always be some constant proportion of a population that will lie, cheat and/or steal, given the opportunity.
Is that too cynical of me to think so?

Perhaps it's more cynical to note that Walmart caters to a socioeconomic class that is more likely to engage in shoplifting or petty theft and thus requires more measures to prevent such than, for example, Whole Foods. (Although heavy markup to counter uncontrolled shrinkage would certainly explain the prices at the latter.)

Fraudulent supercentenaries are another case against annuities.

I worked as a cashier for a while. The policy at the store I worked at was that cashiers had a certain discretionary limit--we could change the price of any item up to that limit, without consulting anyone. The store knew they'd lose money on the individual sale, but they were gaining loyalty. When a little old lady is upset over the price of an item, cutting $5 off the top right there is more useful to the store than cutting it by $25 after a 30 minute wait while a manager comes over. And if the item was below the discretionary limit, the customer got it for free. Not gonna lie, a lot of cute girls and little old ladies got stuff for free. Management didn't care; they were more upset if we DIDN'T use it!

My guess is, a similar thought goes on with self-checkouts. The store knows people will make mistakes, or occasionally get a small item for free. I seriously doubt we're talking high-price items; my guess is we're talking the $5 to $20 range (more opportunities, less risk, etc). Sure, it's technically theft, and obviously immoral--but from the business's perspective it's no different from the cashier taking that prices off the item. This loss is a line-item in their public relations budget.

For me, I can't stand self-checkout. It's agonizingly slow. I was at something like 140% efficiency as a cashier, meaning I was pretty darn fast. I can't reach those speeds in a self-checkout, and it's like nails on a chalk board to me.

I much prefer a skilled and polite professional to doing self-checkout. I mystery-shopped hundreds of supermarkets, by the way, and clients were sometimes concerned that checkers were missing items shoppers had stashed on the bottom shelf of the cart, down near the wheels.

The truth Japan doesn't want tou to know:

How stupid again are our applied technologists? If protocols of scanners, bar codes, and security features are not protecting the integrity of sales, the technology is at fault. (Technology that fails to anticipate human applications and misapplications of it is technology that has failed.)

Retail has two kinds of thieves: customers and employees. Self-checkout combines the two. It reminds me of 1099 "self-employment" with the employee responsible for both the employee and employer portions of OASDI tax.

I wonder how much is user error. You scan, it makes a beep, you scan the next .. they mention "I buy 20, I can get five for free." That's a lot of scanning and beeping. You have to be conscientious as well as honest.

Maybe at the margin someone waves a package over the scanner a couple times and then thinks "well, you had your chance."

Still, a 4% loss rate seems pretty crazy.

(I don't cheat or really like self checkout, but I prefer it to slow cashiers. Home Depot > Lowes for this reason.)

When I first started as a cashier I wondered the same thing. Once you get used to it, though, it's pretty rare. Each "beep" sounds a bit different, and if you default to "one item, one beep" you stay very accurate. It's when you try to scan one item 10 times (because you have 10 of them) that you start to screw up. It also kills your speed, which is why I never did it.

> Maybe at the margin someone waves a package over the scanner a couple times and then thinks "well, you had your chance."

I'm 100% guilty of that on low cost bulk items. I long ago got sick of fighting with the machine on a particular item or some produce not actually being in the system (outside having to type the code in manually and having to had written it down while shopping). If it doesn't scan after two tries or I can't find it on "search" or after five seconds in the screen catalog I just bag it with your logic. I.e. "you had your chance, I reasonably tried to give you my money, you aren't paying me to be a cashier and be a SME on your process.".

I see it the same as littering when the garbage is overflowing. I tried to do the right thing but you didn't do your part and I'm not taking my garbage home with me; onto the floor/ground it goes. I tried, you didn't, that's your loss.

By the way, I'm sure where Tyler is going with this is "why should we hold big business to higher standards than ourselves?"

Anybody who reads Dan Airly knows the modern psychology of humans and temptation. Though religious texts nailed much of it down long ago. We are all fallible.

Another good book, directly on topic, is "Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees" by Lee Dugatkin. IIRC Dugatkin predicted that there could be a mammal society like the naked mole rat before it was actually discovered.

Anyway, we are not bees or mole rats, we are cheating monkeys, which is why we *should* like rules to keep individuals and big business in line.

Rules, not misbegotten pardons for Arpaio or Blagojevich. Not an abandonment of the entire project, of democracy and rule of law.

Who would have thought that giant retailers such as Walmart, so often the bête-noire of anti-capitalists, in addition to providing goods and services effectively and efficiently, would be offering moral lessons as well to the general populace. But wait, aren't moral lessons the exclusive providence of clerics and left-wing politicians?
Walmart is surely aware that pilferage at the self-checkout results in lower profits and contributes to higher prices, but Walmart also knows that it is not Walmart that bears the guilty conscience, it is the dishonest patron in whom they placed their trust. Perhaps Walmart is thinking, and even if it is not, if they can get one more patron to rethink their ways and, à la Jean Valjean, do some good in the world, perhaps those losses will be well worth it.

Obviously more of Cowen's work as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of General Secretary Xi and the Chinese state intended to distract attention from the fact that his beloved Amazon is using child labor to build the devices that will enable China to extend its social credit system over the former republic known as the US. If FBI goons can kick down doors in the middle of the night to rush off pro-Americans into solitary confinement, how come they won't do it to the pro-Chinese "free trade" bobble-heads working so feverishly on behalf of Xi to advance a global Chinese industrial policy?

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