Woolworths’ sneaky self-serve checkout tactic catching out cheeky shoppers

A little-known feature at Woolworths’ self-serve checkouts is stamping out potential theft and helping customers scan groceries faster.

Those who may try to cheat the self-serve system by scanning avocados as carrots should beware, as new technology at the assisted checkouts will be able to detect the type of loose product a customer is purchasing.

The upgrade to the supermarket’s self-serve checkouts – so far in 220 of its 1050 stores – allows the scanner to analyse the characteristics of the produce being weighed before the checkout lists three fruit and vegetable options for a customer to choose from.

“So if a customer places a loose tomato on the scanner, the system will show a range of tomato varieties rather than the full list of fruit and veg items,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“This makes self-serve that little bit faster and improves the accuracy of product selection for customers.”

A woman walks past the front of a Woolworths store in Sydney.
Woolworths has introduced a major change to how its self-service checkouts operate. Source: AAP

Woolworths cuts time spent at checkout

The Picklist Assist feature scans fruit and vegetables using imaging technology to bring up shortlists of items to help shoppers make selection of their produce image quicker.

Woolworths hopes the technology will simplify the shop, with customers being able to quickly select their item from the list of three rather than filtering through all options.

“We’re always looking for ways to make shopping easier for our customers,” the Woolworths spokesperson said.

A self-serve checkout screen shows a list of three options, including bananas, yellow capsicums, and mandarins.
The Picklist Assist technology allows a customer to pick from three options when scanning fruit and veg. Source: Woolworths/supplied

“As we progressively upgrade our assisted checkouts, we have access to new technology, which helps customers find loose fruit and veg items in the system faster.

“The system uses image recognition technology to filter the list of possible products based on their colour, shape or size.”

Yahoo News Australia understands Woolworths does not store any vision recorded at the self-serve checkouts.

Woolworths’ security feature to deter theft

The latest feature comes as Woolworths attempts to deter theft in stores, with another security feature trialled at self-serve checkouts to encourage customers to do the right thing earlier this year.

In May, customers started noticing their own faces in the corner of the screen of the assisted checkout, with many assuming they were being recorded while scanning their groceries.

However, Woolworths confirmed it was a “live reflection” and only seen by the customer while scanning their items.

The new scanners at the self-serve checkouts in some Woolworths supermarkets.
An upgrade to the self-serve checkout includes imaging technology that can identify characteristics of fruit and veg items. Source: Woolworths/supplied

“We know the vast majority of our customers do the right thing at our self-serve checkouts. This is a new security measure we’re trialling for those who don’t,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia in June.

Yahoo News Australia understands the camera does not show the PIN pad and is in line with payment card security standards.

According to The Conversation, the tactic is a psychological trick to encourage “self-reflection” on impulses to exploit loopholes while bagging items at the self-serve checkout.

“The idea is that watching yourself scan your own groceries will reduce the temptation to steal. It is supported by research that shows the effectiveness of cues that cause us to self-focus and self-regulate,” according to The Conversation.

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