business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports on a new study of retailers in the US and Europe that seems to indicate that self-service technology may be helping to turn law-abiding consumers into thieves by making it easier for them to take products without paying for them; the report says that "the use of self-service lanes and smartphone apps to make purchases generated a loss rate of nearly 4 percent, more than double the average."

According to the story, "The scanning technology, which grew in popularity about 10 years ago, relies largely on the honor system. Instead of having a cashier ring up and bag a purchase, the shopper is solely responsible for completing the transaction. That lack of human intervention, however, reduces the perception of risk and could make shoplifting more common, the report said.

"Studies have been inconclusive about whether the systems actually promote more pilfering, but researchers believe they are a gateway for shoppers to act in ways they ordinarily would not."
KC's View:
I find this study to be distressing and depressing. I guess I don't really doubt its conclusions, but I desperately want to ... it really bothers me that we live in a society where otherwise good and decent and lawful people will commit crimes just because they can.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I want to challenge the basic premise. Maybe the people who are stealing are doing so not because systems make it possible, but because their essential nature is to be thieves ... they just haven't engaged in that behavior because the risks are too high. Technology may not promote such behavior as enable it ... which is a different thing.

Though I have to admit that even these caveats don;t make me feel better. I'm still distressed and depressed by the study.