Woolworths debunks 'spy camera' theory after red lights spotted

After an increase in surveillance measures in supermarkets people were quick to believe the theory.

Supermarket cameras and increased security measures are a source of tension for Australian shoppers after Coles and Woolworths recently ramped up their surveillance to combat theft.

So it is no surprise a "joke" about new "spy cameras" in the Woolies fruit section has caused a stir among shoppers. Footage of a flashing red light on the top of a nectarine's digital price tag has been jokingly labelled a new addition to their suite of security cameras.

While it was clearly a quip meant to poke fun at the intense security measures found in supermarkets in recent years, some were quick to believe it and even suggest this was another reason to "boycott" the grocer.

Pictured left is a red light showing on a nectarine price ticket, and right is a Woolworths shopfront.
Supermarket surveillance has been on the rise in stores as a way to combat theft. Source: TikTok/Getty

"I don't shop there anymore. I'd rather help the farmer out who is not spying and ripping us off," one person stated.

"Really, what next? Soon all the staff will lose their jobs too," another said in frustration.

Others immediately knew the post on TikTok was in jest, which was confirmed by the poster in the comments, and offered up suggestions on what the device could be. "It's nothing but a digital tag that connects to a system to update prices in real time," one shopper tried to explain.

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Woolworths reveals what device really is

Woolworths confirmed these flashing lights are not cameras, but "lights to help personal shoppers quickly identify the next item on their list" — quickly debunking the surveillance theory.

"Our personal shoppers use a handheld device with a shopping list based on customers’ online orders," a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia. "It is synced with the lights on our digital tickets so that it’s easier to find each item". Launched in 2022, the spokesperson said the initiative has helped the team save time and increase the accuracy of their selections.

Supermarkets invest in anti-theft technology

New security technology in stores has received mixed reviews by shoppers, many who feel like they're being treated as criminals.

Last Wednesday a customer using a wheelchair told Yahoo he had Coles security gates "slam shut" on him while exiting with his paid items — adding to the already surmounting safety concerns surrounding the newer security technology.

In September, Coles confirmed to Yahoo staff at a select number of Aussie stores would be fitted with new body cams as part of a trial phase in 30 stores across four states. And, earlier in 2023, Woolworths began to trial new camera technology, adding more than 500 cameras in one NSW store to take pictures every hour to monitor stock levels.

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