A woman was cautioned by lawyers that her "cheeky trick" of swapping items in supermarket self checkout tills still counts as stealing and could land her in trouble.
Self service checkouts have shown up in the UK just over a decade ago and now are present in most major supermarkets as they help cut down queue sizes and speed up grocery lines.
But as its popularity has grown, more people try to game the system and by finding ways expensive items for extremely low prices or even free.
In 2019, a teenager in France was arrested after trying to buy a PS4 for £8 by categorising it as fruit.
While not as daring, an Australian woman wrote about her friends habit to News.com.au 's Sisters In Law, a legal advice column by sisters and lawyers Alison and Jillian Barrett.
She said that when her friend uses the self-service checkouts, she regularly puts more expensive fruit and veg – such as an avocado – through the system as a brown onion instead.
The friend believes that it isn't stealing as she's still paying something for it, and claimed the supermarkets work the cost of self-checkout fraud into its prices because "everyone does it".
The lawyers replied to advise: "It doesn’t matter how your friend tries to justify her behaviour, her deceitful conduct in intentionally not paying full price is against the law.
"Your friend’s technique of using the self-service checkout to pass off more expensive items as cheaper ones cheats the system by underpaying. Her fraudulent behaviour is just one of many tricks employed by self-service thieves to avoid payment."
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Alison and Jillian, based in Australia, said the 'tricks' are costing supermarkets a fortune every year and are actually pushing up the prices of groceries as a result.
Self-checkouts can weigh items to check you're being truthful, and supermarkets often employ staff and security guards to ensure they are being used correctly – but they also rely on the honesty of their customers.
They warned that "an excuse like getting avocados confused with brown onions is likely not going to cut it" if her friend is eventually caught, and she could being left facing a range of punishments.
In Australia, the legal experts advised that the act can carry either a fine, having to pay for the items and apologise to the store, or even criminal charges if she fails to comply or is a repeat offender.
They conclude: "You have to ask, is saving a few dollars on avocados worth the risk?"
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