As supermarkets strive to strike a balance between convenience and security in the face of rising shoplifting incidents, a new challenge has arisen.
Innocent customers, with no wrongdoing to their name, now find themselves unintentionally entangled in a web of suspicion and surveillance.
Such was the case for one Aussie shopper recently who was trapped behind security gates at their local Coles despite having paid for their items.
Following the incident, the “triggered” shopper took to Reddit to share their experience.
“I just went to my local Coles and bought two bottles of overpriced milk and took them through the self-serve checkouts. I finished up scanning and paying for my two items and as I go to leave this little gate thing flashes red like an alarm almost, the gate slides shut preventing me and some 60 year old tradie looking bloke from leaving,” they began.
“He immediately looks at me like I’m stealing, I’m in disbelief this gate is a thing that’s apparently legal and wondering how I’m supposed to leave. After 30 seconds of waiting and no receipt checking, the warden (Coles employee) opened our cell we were allowed to go free.
“I honestly was kinda triggered by it and struggled to have to self control not to just kick the barrier or step over it. With how Woolies and Coles have been treating people with price gouging this just feels like another big slap in the face. Not to mention other people were looking at us like we’re caught stealing or something. I think I’ll be giving 1 star reviews to stores that use these anti-theft measures.
“I wanted to know what everyone else’s experiences have been like with these things? Have stores faced much backlash over implementing them?”
Other shoppers joined the conversation, expressing their outrage and sharing similar experiences, forming a collective outcry against the unsettling atmosphere that the latest anti-theft measures have created.
“If you don’t trust your customer base, don’t let them scan their own groceries. If you don’t want to pay a teenager to do the job, then suck the losses from a few bad apples,” one shopper wrote.
“The same thing happened to me and my daughter in Coles. Paid for items , didn’t know they put gates up and walked straight into it with the alarm going off. The coles worker said it’s happening all the time. I did feel bad for my daughter. She has ASD and doesn’t handle loud and unexpected noises,” another shared.
“Sounds like a challenge to see if it’s tougher than your trolley next time you visit,” one joked.
“A store is not entitled to detain you, only the police can, and if you have no stolen items you can leave the store. If the store then accuses you of stealing without any evidence then that is a court case that you will win,” another user explained.
“I am certain it’s only a matter of time before the legality of these gates are challenged. Firstly because of fire/evacuation risk, and second because they’re trying to detain people. In the meantime we should just step over or push through them,” one pondered.
“I was stuck with a trolley full of groceries I’d paid for and a screaming toddler for ages while the one employee was helping others with their checking out before she came over to press the button to let us out. If they aren’t checking your receipts then what’s even the point. I found it very upsetting,” a fellow shopper recalled.
“I saw these this weekend at my local shops as a shopper was held up behind the screen and the employee apologetically explained it keeps happening because it’s too slow to register the payment. The customer was pretty agitated and considering my area has some socioeconomic challenges, I kept thinking how this was such a lose lose for customers to be treated as guilty, while the employees will bare the brunt of the consequences for this decision. It’s only a matter of time before an employee is hurt over this,” another shopper said.
Similar outrage erupted when Coles began trialling staff body cameras across 30 stores in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia.
The cameras were affixed to staff uniforms and beamed live footage back to upper management.
Coles transformation general manager Sophie Wong said that the cameras enable “us to understand in real time what is happening to our team members and the community as well,” when speaking to 7 News.
She also said that the cameras comply with Australian privacy laws and that any footage recorded would not be held onto “for any longer than a few weeks”.
SA Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval supported the trial, stating that it would help the police combat “organised retail theft”.
However, reactions from the general public were less than welcome. On social media, many were quick to note that the potential for invasion of privacy was dystopian in nature.