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Aussie reveals why they shoplift at Coles, Woolworths and Kmart - but not others

The cost of grocery staples are rising, but is it ever justifiable to steal?

Security gates at a Woolworths.
Australian supermarkets are introducing new methods to reduce shoplifting, but one thief says she's not deterred. (Credit: Woolworths)

Extreme security measures from supermarket giants like Coles and Woolworths are not deterring some Australians from resorting to shoplifting as they deal with the cost-of-living pinch.

Both Aussie retailers have introduced a raft of new measures, including artificial intelligence and high-tech cameras at self-serve checkouts, and gates that won’t open if sensors deem you’ve stolen - much to the chagrin of innocent shoppers caught in the push.

However, the effectiveness is questionable.

Have you resorted to extreme measures as cost of living takes its toll? Tell your story to belinda.grant-geary@yahooinc.com

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"There’s cameras with footage directly of your face now but it doesn’t deter me,” an admitted shoplifter told The Feed.

The reality that many Australians are struggling to make ends meet has been blamed for a surge in shoplifting across the country.

The self-confessed criminal said the struggle to get an affordable rental and the concern she had for being able to feed her pet cat were part of her drive to steal up to $300 worth of products, ranging from food to cosmetics.

Coles announced 20 per cent stock losses from shoplifting (and food waste) as it revealed a $1.1b profit this year, while competitor Woolies estimated theft made up a quarter of stock loss when it revealed its $1.6b profit margin.

This was another thing that played into the anonymous thief’s reasoning.

“[Supermarkets] will still be swimming in profits whether I steal a can of $2 cat food or not,” she said.

It appears there is honour among thieves, however. Smaller businesses are not getting the same treatment as bigger retailers like Kmart, Coles or Woolworths.

A Woolworths deli worker, who did not want to be identified, said they had turned a blind eye to shoplifting because they assumed the person “really needed it”. They even said they’d secretly marked down items for friends and customers after seeing large price jumps.

“If I have the power to do it and it’s not that risky for me, then I'll happily do what I can to help out,” they told The Feed.

“It's not like I get paid extra if I stop shoplifting.”

Justifiable or criminal: What do Aussies think of shoplifting?

Aussie households, on average, are spending a massive $1,924 more on groceries a year and 78 per cent of Australians have been forced to cut back on their spending just to cope with crippling inflation.

But do these pressures make stealing OK?

Recent research from Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) group found more than a quarter thought retail theft was either a little, somewhat, very or completely justifiable, with self-serve checkouts skewing toward being more acceptable.

How many Aussie shoppers considered illegal acts a little to completely justifiable:

  • Taking an item without paying: 28 per cent

  • Changing price tags on products: 30 per cent

  • Not scanning some items when using self-serve terminal: 32 per cent

  • Scanning items as cheaper items at self-serve checkouts: 37 per cent

Of those surveyed, 50 per cent said they felt financially worse off, but those aged between 35 and 54 were the most pessimistic.

Interestingly, the large divide came down generational lines, with those above 55 finding retail theft far less acceptable than those between 18 and 34.

Take a look at the skew here.

shoplifting
Young people surveyed found it more acceptable to shoplift than older consumers. (Credit: Australian Consumer and Retail Studies)

The Australian Retail Association has claimed a “steady increase” in shoplifting is costing the industry more than $9 billion a year.

However, it’s not just shoppers. There’s been a rise in organised crime targeting high-price items and reselling them to service a market of people struggling to buy in store.

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