Shoplifters force Wegmans to pull the plug on its self-scanning app

Discussion
Sources: Wegmans
Sep 13, 2022

Wegmans is ending the use of its SCAN app, which enables customers to scan and bag items as they shop in its stores. The family-owned grocery chain concluded that it could no longer afford the losses associated with the app as shoplifters exploited the technology to walk out of stores with items they did not scan.

“SCAN users have told us they love the app and the convenience it offers,” the company wrote in an email to its customers, The Buffalo News reports. “We love it too and have tried many adjustments to keep it. Unfortunately, the losses we are experiencing from this program prevent us from continuing to make it available in its current state.”

Wegmans first rolled out the self-scanning app in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the demand for contactless shopping. The chain deployed the technology at a store in DeWitt, NY, and then expanded it to other locations, according to Syracuse.com.

Self-checkout technology has always been seen as an easy mark by thieves looking to steal goods from stores. Reports in the past have posited that as many as 20 percent of individuals shopping in stores with self-checkout tech have stolen something.

Wegmans, despite this setback, is not fully giving up on self-scanning technology. In a message to customers, the grocery chain wrote, “We’ve made the decision to turn off the app until we can make improvements that will meet the needs of our customers and business. We’ve learned a lot, and we will continue to introduce new digital solutions to streamline the shopping experience for the future.”

Wegmans will retire the app on September 18 and is giving users, presumably including those that have already ripped it off, a courtesy credit of $20 to their online accounts.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Wegmans’ experience with customers using its self-scanning tech to steal an outlier in retail or is it similar to the experience in other stores? What do you see as the future for self-scanning tech in retail stores?

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"Wegmans should have put some more security measures in place to combat what could have been entirely predicted."

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21 Comments on "Shoplifters force Wegmans to pull the plug on its self-scanning app"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Having used this app, I can confirm that the security around it is very lax. You scan items on your phone as you shop and place them directly in your bag. At the end of the shop you simply go to a self-service register and pay. There is no oversight, few security cameras, and no random checks. It would be so easy to steal things. The app isn’t the easiest to use and it sometimes takes a while for products to scan and register, so I suspect some losses are accidental or down to misuse. It’s a shame as it is a very convenient and speedy way of shopping.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Shorting receipts has been a problem in grocery since the first dishonest cashier started ringing up customers. Now we’ve expanded the population of potentially dishonest employees to anyone interested in shorting a transaction. This will definitely be a problem that retailers and technology will have to find a solution for before we see wider adoption of self-scanning apps in the market.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Who thought that telling people, “scan it yourselves, we’re not watching” was not going to lead to problems? At least at self checkout lines there’s somebody watching. Wegmans handed their customers a tool to help them steal – they shouldn’t be shocked that they are doing so.

VeeCee
Guest

When you scan as you go at Wegmans, you check out at the self checkout lines which is monitored by store employees. Wegmans needs to do random auditing of customers just like Stop & Shop does when I use their scan-it app.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

The first law of retail is Murphy’s Law so Wegmans should have seen this one coming. Others take note.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! When it works well, self scanning technology can have a significantly positive impact on the customer experience. The challenge with self scan has always been the possibility of increased theft, but this alone should not be the sole reason to discard a self scan option. For example, Wegmans could make it available to only loyalty program members which may reduce the theft behavior. Self-scanning tech is going to become a bigger, not smaller part of grocery retailing.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

Without checks and balances people’s base natures are enticed to run amok, especially in a time when inflation is hitting the pocketbook. Wegmans should have put some more security measures in place to combat what could have been entirely predicted.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

Conceptually, scan and go technology should be successful. However to help prevent theft, retailers need to have random checks to ensure that items are properly scanned. Even with cashier checkouts, Costco has been requiring shoppers to show their receipts before leaving the store. Unfortunately, we can’t trust everyone.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Director of Commerce
21 days 5 hours ago

I believe there is a need for the app, but they need more checks and balances for it. There has always been a risk of theft but that is why loss prevention departments exist.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Scan and go technology is on the rise and it will get better with enhanced in-app security and fraud protective features. Unfortunately, we live in a society where scammers find ways to exploit these new customer experience introductions. But technology alone is not the answer. Store operational procedures must also be introduced in parallel to augment the new technology to make this work. I’m sure Wegmans is revisiting its operational plans and will come back with a better plan in the future.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

As many as 20 percent of individuals shopping in stores with self-checkout tech have stolen something. This is a sad statement for society. I can’t imagine other stores experiencing anything different.

The future? There will be a solution. This challenge promises too many positives for the store and the customer to be ignored.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

I’m not surprised at all that some customers took advantage of this technology. What a shame. I hope that a combination of scans and Just Walk Out technology can fix this problem.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Self-scanning apps are not dead. However they are in need of significant refinements to avoid the thefts that Wegmans and other retailers have suffered. Wegmans will figure it out, including some of the refinements noted by other BrainTrust contributors.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Unless we have some major technological breakthrough, I see no future in retailing for self-scanning.
Even with all the screening retailers do, we know that over 25 percent of employees are hardcore thieves. Who are always looking for ways to steal. If this is true about employees, what does that say about customers who have not been screened and given the combination to the safe with no security measures in place?

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

The three sides of the theft triangle side are motivation, opportunity and lack of detection. Wegmans app provided 2 of three. For too many of their customers the third was self-provided. Unfortunately I expect other large format stores who use this technology will have the same experience.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

The checkout grocery operating model is undergoing a reinvention, with grocers investing in self-checkouts, scan-and-go capabilities, and potentially the “just walk out” innovations. However, as Wegmans has experienced, with any self-checkout capability, there needs to be transparent governance, security, and privacy plan in place to ensure that in the drive to be more frictionless, the grocer doesn’t end up in a losing sum game.

Any customer-centric innovation has to be a complete end-to-end understanding of the customer journey, including every possible step in leveraging the new ways of checking out at a grocery store.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Sad — I guess, although “that’s just the way it is” might also cover it — but some of us have been saying this from day one.

It’s a big problem that the tech people, or really the people who get excited by what tech people have shown them, just gloss over.

storewanderer
Guest
21 days 25 minutes ago
Albertsons tried this 20 years ago and it flopped. Kroger has tried this more recently with scan bag go and the experiment has been shut down after much fanfare and doing things like reducing some stores to 5 checkstands and 16 self checkouts with a forecast for 20% of transactions to be scanned with scan bag go. Walmart still has this feature for the Walmart Plus members and Sam’s Club has it. I see MANY customers using the self scan feature at Sam’s Club. Is it working for Sam’s? I think it is. Why? First, the items are larger. There is no weighable produce. There are no bags. Second there is a known door check of everyone leaving and they do a random check of what is in your cart vs. what you scanned. So I think this technology may work with large items and the known door check. So why can’t it work for grocers? The reality is too few people used it. Customers are not interested in this for a 50 item cart… Read more »
VeeCee
Guest

I use the Scan-It App at both Wegmans and Stop & Shop. I love being able to shop and bag as I go. It also allows me to verify that the sale prices are correct and see how much I am spending as I go. The big difference between the two stores is Stop & Shop does random audits to aid with preventing shoplifting. I am audited @ 33% (or 1 out of every 3 trips). Wegmans should do the same.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Retailers offering self-checkout facilities must initiate membership programs for customers. Such a scheme will ensure that only loyal members with certain ratings can avail “self-scanning tech,” preventing the other regular buyers from misusing the facility. Committed members hold a certain kind of decency and do not intend to steal or exploit the services. As a result, merchants can still offer their devoted customers the convenience and leisure they deserve.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Wegmans should have put some more security measures in place to combat what could have been entirely predicted."

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