Grocery store chain ‘still learning’ from new scan-avoidance system
SPRINGDALE, Ark.—Harps Food Stores’ recent investment in scan-avoidance technology has pointed out front-end problems that need to be addressed along with some specific cashier thefts, John Rinks, a district manager, who also is in charge of loss prevention for the 68-store chain, told Security Director News.
“It’s helping now, we’re still learning. Right now we’re in the quantifying, return-on-investment stage. I’d say we need two more years, realistically, until we have a good feeling to take it companywide,” Rinks said.
StopLift’s ScanItAll video recognition technology, which employs cameras over checkout stations, was first tested at one Harps store in Missouri in 2010, and since has been put in place at 22 others. The system analyzes the pixels of digitized video to scrutinize how a cashier handles each item to determine whether or not it was properly scanned. It understands fraudulent behaviors, including when a cashier covers up a bar code by hand or purposely misaligns the scanner and item so that it is not scanned. ScanItAll also detects refund fraud, basket-based loss, self-checkout shrink and other operational error.
“I don’t have exact numbers. It’s not going to stop dishonest checkers, but it does show where losses are really happening, and that’s at the front-end, mostly through checkers who are distracted, and it shows equipment issues,” said Rinks, who has been with the company for 34 years and meets annually with a share group associated with the National Grocers Association to discuss security issues.
Harps has reprogrammed its registers to address a problem it was having with its “Five for Five” meat special, in which customers may buy five packages of meat for $25. Cashiers sometimes separated each package from the rest of a customer’s purchases to determine if there were, indeed, five packages, but then, because Harps cashiers scan and then immediately bag their items, forgot to scan them. Harps reprogrammed the registers to make it easier for cashiers to keep track.
Harps’ shrink “is moderate,” Rinks said, less than 1 percent, but that amounts to hundreds of thousands to over a million dollars for the employee-owned company. “We’d tried everything under the sun.”
Working with CCTV cameras was time-consuming. “Now we have a system where you have [analytics], eyes doing it for you, telling you if you have issues,” he said. “We log on and view the incidents.” He views companywide information; individual store managers have access to the specific information for their stores.
Cameras are installed over the checkout belts and registers and some are focused on bagging areas. The system “visualizes items and marries that up to the physical data. If six items are only registered, but eight are seen, the system flags it. It sees everything that should be transacted and properly rung up,” Rinks said.