Catching clerks stealing from stores

Besides recognizing scams, some point to technology solutions


ATLANTA -- Shoplifting: one more reason why your grocery bills are on the rise.

Now Channel 2 reveals how more and more grocery clerks are getting caught cheating the system.

The "two-at-a-time", the "fold-and-bag", the "cashier handoff" - all are varieties of a theft technique called sweethearting.

It's just one way employees rip off their employees, and you pay for it.

Georgia State Professor Dean Dabney studied retail theft.

He explained the term shrinkage rate is used to explain the unaccounted for inventory in the retail industry.

"When shrinkage rates go up, profit margins go down, they have to adjust that in some way, and that comes across in pricing."

Research shows one in four retail employees are involved in some kind of theft.

In sweethearting, the cashier and the customer are a team.

The clerk purposely doesn't scan all the items in the order.

Sweethearting alone costs retailers $13 billion in losses.

Companies now are investing in gear to look over their cashiers' shoulders.

Malay Kundu runs a company called StopLift, Incorporated.

"I used to develop systems for looking at terrorists in airports and I've taken some of those ideas and messed them around and basically we figured out a way to identify sweet hearting," Kundu said.

He said his software can spot suspicious behavior at the cash register.

"The software is sitting there analyzing the video," Kundu explained. "It's actually doing what's called 3-D human body pose recognition. It's actually analyzing what the human is doing, how they're interacting with the different pieces of merchandise, what they're ringing up, and what they're not."

Retailers compare the videotaped transactions with the register receipts.

It's then up to the stores to take action.

Professor Dabney said retailers need the technology because not every hire is going to be an angel.

"We're paying these folks minimum wage or slightly over minimum wage and there's a great deal of turnover there," Dabney explained. "We know that turnover predicts employee theft and employee deviance. That being the case, those kinds of jobs are ripe for that kind of problem."

Copyright 2008 by WSB-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.