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The Hartford Courant reports on new video technology being used by Big Y Foods to make sure that checkout personnel aren’t making mistakes or giving away merchandise to friends or relatives for free, a practice called “sweethearting.”

The new software, from a company called StopLift, apparently, reviews the checkout transactions automatically since there was so much footage that it was impossible for a human being to review.

The Courant writes, “Using existing closed-circuit cameras that focus on the body and hand movements of the cashier, the program identifies mis-scans, including those in which a cashier puts her hand over the bar code and only pretends to scan a product, stacks several items on top of each other or passes the product over an inoperative part of the scanner. It also catches items left in the grocery cart that never get scanned, and can pinpoint which cashier rang up too many coupons.

“ The videotape shows each mis-scanned item framed by a brightly colored, blinking square. StopLift correlates the images with information recorded on the grocery receipt, and within a day, informs store managers of any mis-scans, with a video clip that shows the mis-scanned object as well as the cashier. ”

Industry statistics show that inventory losses at US supermarkets are more than $40 billion a year and that 44 percent of these losses stem from employee theft.

KC's View:
With loss numbers this high, it is perfectly understandable that companies would want to find a way to do something about it.

But I have to admit to being a little uneasy with this technological solution and the level of distrust that it seems to imply. I wouldn’t want to work for someone who was intent on capturing my every move on video…not because I have anything to hide, but because I would prefer that some level of trust exist between employer and employee.

Maybe it is impossible to hire smarter, to hire better…and to do so in such a way that these kinds of technological solutions are unnecessary. But I cannot help but think that we are poorer, not richer, for these kinds of surveillance techniques.