Loblaws tests security scanners customers must use to exit

A major Canadian grocery chain is testing new security measures, with customers required to scan receipts before they can leave to prove that they have paid for all their items.

Loblaws has launched a pilot project at a handful of its stores in Ontario, but those four outlets are generating a lot of backlash from shoppers.

The scanners have been set up at security gates at the stores’ self-checkout areas, requiring customers to scan a barcode on their receipt before the gates swing open.

If someone tries to push through otherwise, a loud alarm starts beeping.

Loblaws has publicly commented on these test scanners. In a statement to CityNews, the company says it is exploring new measures to try to curb losses from theft, which it is largely blaming on organized crime.

“Organized retail crime across the entire industry is a serious issue, and has only gotten worse,” said spokesperson Catherine Thomas in an emailed statement.

“We are working hard to balance a need for enhanced security while at the same time preserving a welcoming and convenient customer experience.”

However, customers have told various Ontario media outlets they do not like the scanners, calling them intrusive, cumbersome, and not customer-friendly.

The Retail Council of Canada tells CityNews it does not comment on the business operations of individual members, but says retail theft is not a victimless crime.

In an emailed statement, the council says retailers across Canada report incidents of retail theft that involve some form of violence have increased 300 per cent over the past four years.

“Retail theft is often thought of as a victimless crime, but it’s not. It costs Canadian retailers billions of dollars a year – costs that are borne by all consumers when they go shopping. In addition to being frustrated by financial losses, business owners are concerned for the safety of their customers and employees.”

At this point, there’s no indication whether the scanners will spread to other Loblaws-owned stores within Ontario or other provinces.

Profoundly poor solution to theft: food economist

University of Guelph professor and food economist Mike von Massow tells CityNews that while he appreciates that theft is likely on the rise, and in turn is contributing to increasing costs, he’s surprised by the move, considering the “current environment.”

“Given the hits that retailers have taken generally, and Loblaws specifically, it just doesn’t strike me as a well thought out implementation,” von Massow said Thursday.

“I use the self-checkout all the time. It’s usually quicker, I’m not usually buying a huge number of things. I wouldn’t find just quickly scanning my bill intrusive, but I can understand why people do, and understand that people are upset with being questioned or challenged,” he added.

Von Massow believes there are other ways the organization could evaluate whether people are stealing, including having staff at check outs and exits.

“I’m sympathetic to the grocery stores, which are likely seeing an increase in theft, but I think that from a PR perspective, and from an implementation perspective, they’ve just done a profoundly poor job at coming up with a solution,” he said.

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