It seems that using self-checkouts could put you at risk of landing in big trouble. One retail superstore has been making headlines after people across the country are reportedly being arrested for retail theft after using the self-checkouts.

Walmart Wants To Give You Options

According to Walmart's corporate website, the retail giant says they want to offer customers the convenience of having options when it comes to making their purchases at the checkout.

Over the past few years, we have rolled out new Hosted Checkouts in a number of our stores. Our associates working in the Customer Host role can show customers to available registers, help them through the checkout process and answer any questions they may have. This new checkout process is designed to help customers complete their shopping even faster.

If you prefer checking out with a cashier, we will continue to have that option available for customers who prefer that method. Additionally, Walmart+ members have the option to use our mobile Scan & Go feature, which gives you a contact-free checkout experience using your phone to scan items as you shop.

But what is the best way to actually complete your transaction?

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Love-Hate Relationship Part One: The Love

When it comes to shopping at the mega-retailer, I have a love-hate relationship with self-checkouts. On the one hand, if I only have a small number of items I'm buying, say a half-dozen or less, it can be really convenient to just scan everything real quick and go. Especially when you look at the giant bank of cash registers only to realize there is a single register open, with a lone cashier and a line six people deep with heaping carts of merchandise.

Love-Hate Relationship Two: The Hate

The otherside of that love-hate relationship is that if I have an entire cartload of groceries and other household essentials, (plus, let's be real, anything else that I have impulsively decided I should buy that day) it can seem a bit laborious to put it all on the belt, scan everything, bag everything, and then load it back into my cart before ultimately unloading everything again into the trunk of my car. It's enough work to leave you wondering where your employee discount is at but it is typically faster than standing in line for that single, open register and overworked cashier.

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Self-Checkout Could Cost You More Than Just Your Bill

Unfortunately, there is no employee discount for using the self-checkout at Walmart and other major retail and grocery chains but there is an inherent risk that you may not be aware of... a theft charge. I know you're thinking, to yourself, "I've never stolen anything in my life!" and you might be right. However, it is entirely possible that you have and you just don't know it.

Accidental Thief

Picture it: You're scanning your items and tossing them into shopping bags. Your best friend sends you a text and you're now using one hand to send a funny gif while scanning with the other. You get distracted by the giggles from the cute baby in the cart at the register next to you and you swipe the next item across the scanner before tossing it into the bag with the myriad of other things you're buying - BUT that item didn't get picked up by the scanner and you didn't notice... and now you're being detained by Walmart loss prevention for retail theft, the police have been called and you are about to have a criminal record.

Sounds Crazy, Right?

I know it sounds crazy, but a 60-year-old woman in Tuscan, Arizona recently made headlines after being arrested for a similar situation. She was distracted and missed a couple of her items with the scanner and she isn't alone.

 

It Happens More Often Than You Think

Unfortunately, this happens far more often than you might think. An Alabama woman recently was awarded a $2.1 million dollar settlement from Walmart after a similar situation resulted in the woman being arrested, and her fingerprints and mugshot going into the criminal database. She claimed the incident, which she maintains was an accident, resulted in damage to her public reputation. They say that her "ability to make a living" was "stifled by the criminal charge."

 

Who Is Getting Arrested?

In a 3:30 video that has been liked by more than 200k people and shared by nearly 30k, Carrie Jernigan, a defense attorney who posts content to TikTok for her 1.3 million followers says there are three groups of people that are generally finding themselves facing theft charges. One is the obvious - those who go into the store with the premeditated intent to steal from the store. She calls the second group "Theft By Mistake." She describes these cases as someone who forgets to scan the bulky item on the bottom of the cart or misses an item that slipped under something else in the cart and is out of sight. The third group she calls "The Truly Innocent." These people she says are people who are being charged days, weeks, or even months later when the stores are doing their inventory or quality control. See her full video below.

How To Keep It From Happening To You

By now you're probably asking yourself if the convenience of the self-checkout is worth the potential risk of what could happen if you accidentally missed scanning an item, and you're not alone. I am definitely second-guessing whether or not I will continue using them or whether I will endure the wait for a real cashier. In another video, Jernigan offers some tips to protect yourself from accidentally picking up a charge instead of just your groceries. She says to only use it if you're making small purchases and that you should avoid it all together if you are making a large grocery purchase.

Do not use self-checkout for large grocery orders. You are just asking for trouble. - Defense Attorney Carrie Jernigan via Tik Tok

Don't Use Cash

In addition to only using self-checkout for purchasing a small number of items, Jernigan recommends that you avoid using cash to pay for your purchase. She says that by hanging onto your receipts and using a debit or credit card to pay for your purchases, you will be able to provide proof of what price you paid should you need to prove your innocence at a later date. She also suggests holding each item up before slowly scanning it across the register to ensure that the cameras can clearly see each item you are scanning. Watch her full video of tips to protect yourself below.

The Bottom of the Cart Line

Whether you choose to continue using the self-checkout is entirely up to you, but if you find yourself having to roll your fingers over an inkpad, don't say we didn't warn you.

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