Technology helps prevent grocery theft during holiday season
Many people will be picking up their Thanksgiving turkeys this weekend, but not everyone will be paying for them.
Grocery stores are about to see a big spike in turkey thefts. Stolen birds put a huge dent in the stores' bottom lines. Grocers need to sell 50 turkeys to offset the cost of one theft, which is why many grocers are now investing in a new, high tech set of eyes.
Believe it or not, a lot of theft happens behind the register. It's called sweet-hearting, where cashiers don't ring up certain items for family and friends.
Sweet-hearting costs grocery stores $10 billion a year.
"Prices go up as a result of theft and sweet-hearting," said Malay Kundu, creator of StopLift.
To combat theft, hundreds of grocery stores, including many in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, are now paying Kundu to watch their checkout lanes.
He invited NBC 10 News into his Cambridge headquarters to show us how his system works.
"What you see is there's a turkey here," said Kundu while looking at StopLift video. "Everything else got scanned but the turkey."
During the season of giving, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, Kundu's cameras see an 80 percent increase in sweet-hearting.
The StopLift system also spots plenty of shoppers who have figured out how to steal turkeys on their own.
"He's got two turkeys that he's leaving in the cart while he's got two on the belt," said Kundu, describing how a customer is hiding turkeys from the cashier.
Kundu said using self-checkout is the easiest way to swipe a bird.
"Theft is up to five times higher at self-checkouts than at manned checkouts," said Kundu.
Kundu then showed video of a woman paying for lunchmeat at a self-checkout register, but leaving a turkey in her cart. The woman walks away from the register without scanning or paying for her turkey.
While stores can take their time confronting sweet-hearting cashiers, they have to act quickly with self-checkout bandits. StopLift sends self-checkout attendants live alerts, notifying them there's a potential theft in progress.
Stopping theft means a cost savings for the grocer, and consequently, the shopper.
"When you're able to stop it, it brings prices down," said Kundu.
Kundu said many stores installed self-checkout lanes to save on payroll expenses, but theft is so high, stores are now converting back to traditional checkout lanes.