Young employees at self-scan tills feel unsafe because of aggressive customers

Young employees who work on the self-scan tills in Dutch supermarkets often don’t feel safe at work, NOS reports after surveying a thousand of them. They report customers throwing products at them, calling them names, or even threatening them.

Supermarkets started deploying self-scan checkouts en masse during the coronavirus pandemic, and they often use young employees to staff them, trade union FNV told the broadcaster. “Then you are at the self-scan as a 16-year-old, and the team leader who has to help you is 20. How safe is that,” said Fatma Budayci of the union. “We get stories from young people who say: I have to address a customer who has just stolen who is taller and older than me.”

The number of shoplifting cases rose by over 30 percent last year, from 30,000 incidents in 2021 to 40,000 in 2022, according to police data. Criminologists told NOS that some of that increase has to be due to the self-scan checkouts. They lower the threshold for taking items without scanning them.

Supermarkets wouldn’t tell NOS how much gets stolen at the self-scan checkouts and what measures they’re taking. But the employees said they have to do more random checks now, resulting in them facing more challenging situations.

Eline, 20, faced an aggressive customer this weekend. “He hadn’t scanned eight things. I saw that, so I asked if I could see the receipt. He tried to get past me, eventually, he really started getting intimidating. He pushed me, and I pushed him back.”

Isabelle, 19, received an instruction to check a customer. “I hadn’t said a word to the customer yet. The man immediately started cursing me. That man didn’t speak a normal word to me.”

“People are often rude to you if you have to check them. Some people get really angry,” Jara, 16, told the broadcaster.

“They look over your shoulder, sometimes you get comets like: Do I look like a thief to you?” said Roos, 17. “I would have liked to have been trained because random checks aren’t appreciated. I had a man who stood too close to me. He left the store and later came back to yell at me.”

Of the 1,000 self-scan till employees NOS spoke to, nearly 800 said they experienced theft at some point, and over 400 sometimes or often feel unsafe when they have to address someone.

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