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  • Writer's pictureFrederick Spaulding

Human Nature at the check out counter

by Frederick C. Spaulding

Today’s news and human nature story is from BusinessInsider.com. Here is a link:

We are all familiar with self-checkout. Under the best of conditions it turns us all into checkout clerks working for free for a store where we are already buying products.

Another side of self checkout is the opportunity to slip one of those items past the scanner and into the bag without adding the item cost to the bill..ie, stealing.


As noted in the article, the increase in inventory loss from self checkout is 31-60% higher. What does this say about human nature? It is clear that many of us are stealing from the grocery store and if it is easier, then more of us will do it.


Another side to this situation is our ability to rationalize the theft. Maybe we are in a hurry and we just happened to pick up two items, scanning one but putting both in the bag. Maybe the auto checker didn’t catch it. Then the realization comes, “I don’t think I scanned that item, but I’m in a hurry and it’s their fault anyway because they are making me do all the work here.

It’s part of our human nature to take something we need. What keeps our society together are a variety of counterweights. The human desire to avoid punishment and social disgrace yes, but most importantly ingrained principles counteract our human tendency to steal and rationalize it away.


Unfortunately, what we see in the case of self checkout theft is that lowering the social counterweight allows basic human nature to take over.

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