Walmart and Kroger shoppers caught “switcheroo” at the self-checkout counter face arrest and even jail time

WALMART and Kroger shoppers caught swapping barcodes on items at the checkout could face jail time.

Known as “switcheroo,” the tactic involves customers peeling the sticker off a cheap product and pasting it over the price tag of a more expensive product.

Walmart and Kroger buyers caught exchanging barcodes on items face jail time


Walmart and Kroger buyers caught exchanging barcodes on items face jail timePhoto credit: Getty

Customers have resorted to this strategy to save money on their groceries.

Caught buyers, however, risk jail time.

Chasity Shirley, 34, faced up to 10 years behind bars after exchanging barcodes on a toothbrush holder and a child’s blanket and tank top at a Kentucky store, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

She was convicted of “unlawfully gaining access to a computer.”

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Typical shoplifting offenses for items under $500 carry a fine of only $250 and up to 90 days in prison under state law.

But prosecutors and Walmart had argued that when Shirley exchanged barcodes at the self-checkout, she illegally accessed the store’s computer system.

Unlawful access to a computer is a Class C felony, punishable by five to ten years in prison.

However, the appeals court argued that Shirley and other Walmart customers are permitted to use the in-store checkout.

Last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Shirley should not face a felony or such a lengthy sentence.

The decision agrees with the Kentucky Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously found the sentencing was “inherently unfair.”

Shirley could now receive a directed judgment that would see the conviction dismissed.

Retailers like Walmart and Kroger have also coined terms like “the pass around” and “banana trick.”

When it comes to “passing on,” shoppers simply don’t scan a specific item.

And one “banana trick” is for customers to scan an expensive item with a code for a cheaper item.

Criminologists have warned shoppers could become “part-time thieves” if they use the self-checkout.

Adam Beck told CBC Canada that shoppers don’t enter stores with intent to steal.

He said, “They’re just taking the opportunity that’s given them on these machines.”

And Barbara Staib of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention claims shoppers are lured by a sense of anonymity.

Kroger is among retailers who have taken action to combat self-checkout theft.

The retailer has teamed up with Irish AI company Eversen and rolled out technology designed to prevent “skip scans”.

Developers revealed the new AI-powered checkouts will give shoppers a “gentle nudge” if they make an unintentional mistake while scanning their groceries.

The Visual AI device captures videos and flags mistakes customers make at the self-checkout.

Chris McCarrick, Kroger’s senior manager of asset protection, solutions and technology, said, “Now, if customers make a mistake while scanning, the system gives them a gentle nudge to get things going again.”

He described it as a “win-win situation” as workers’ jobs will be made easier.

However, the widespread use of technology in retail has escalated fears that customers are performing the duties of cashiers in a role experts have dubbed “shadow work”.

Author Craig Lambert explained in his 2015 book, Shadow Work: The Unpaid, Unseen Jobs That Fill Your Day, that activity “includes any unpaid work that we do on behalf of businesses and organizations.”

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He claimed it had “secretly” infiltrated people’s everyday lives.

He said, “Most of us don’t realize how much of this we’re already doing, even as we pump our own gas, scan and bag our own groceries, do our own stock trades, and build our own unassembled furniture.” Walmart and Kroger shoppers caught “switcheroo” at the self-checkout counter face arrest and even jail time


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