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Annoyed by self-checkout lanes? They’re also legally dangerous

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Maybe you’ve noticed, but there’s been a disturbing rise in the number of self-checkout lanes popping up in stores all over – especially in department stores like Wal-Mart or grocery chains.

Some customers don’t mind them – or even prefer them when they only have one or two items – but many customers find them annoying. They find them confusing and difficult to use or feel like they’re being asked to do the work of a store employee for free.

Unfortunately, using a self-checkout lane could also make you prone to arrest over nothing more than a mere mistake.

Stores are on high alert, and that makes them jump to conclusions

There has been somewhat of a domino effect happening: Stores are having trouble finding and keeping staff due to recent events over the last few years, so they went to alternative check-out methods, the most common of which is the self-checkout lane.

In turn, petty thieves – some utter novices at shoplifting – discovered that it was relatively easy to make off with a few unscanned items each trip. THAT drove losses up and profits down for these stores, so companies are now trying to clamp down on shoplifters in numerous ways – and that can lead to management pressing charges over what amounts to a simple mistake.

For example, imagine that you’re getting ready for your child’s birthday party, with all the trimmings – and you tossed a couple of extra items onto the bottom rack of your cart shortly after you got into the store. You’re tired, stressed and in a hurry, so you forgot about them. You didn’t even notice when you rang out the rest of your items. The next thing you know, you’re being detained for shoplifting.

Is this fair? No. In fact, the state law says that you are only guilty of shoplifting if you seek to deprive the merchant of their goods “willfully.” An accident isn’t willful – but trying to talk your way out of the situation by explaining that it was just a mistake will (at best) do nothing to help you and (at worst) could give the prosecution ammunition against you.

Frankly, you may want to stick to the regular checkout lanes whenever possible. If you do end up charged with shoplifting over a mere error, it’s generally wisest to get immediate legal assistance.