How Do Supermarkets Detect Stolen Goods?

Can Cameras Catch Shoplifters?

How Do Supermarkets Detect Stolen Goods?

One of the most serious problems that supermarkets have to fight with is avenue loss from shoplifting.

Indeed, this is not a problem encountered by supermarkets alone but by grocery stores as well.

Shoplifters will not refrain from stealing from any store, including supermarkets, department stores, drug stores, specialty shops, discounters, convenience stores, music stores, and thrift shops.

So you might be wondering, how do supermarkets detect stolen goods?

Supermarkets largely rely on the conventional way of using well-trained employees, coupled with modern technological devices like cameras and other detectors. 

Shoplifters prefer stealing small, expensive items. Since supermarkets have very thin profit margins, any loss is significant.

As pointed out, supermarkets cannot rely on employees alone but will also use security cameras and locking up expensive, frequently stolen products.

Indeed, there are even some grocery stores that hire private undercover cops.

Can Supermarkets Strive To Prevent Theft?

Yes. Supermarkets can reduce a large percentage of thefts meted on them by training their staff adequately and effectively.

Indeed, this is the best way that is currently available and may not be replaced anytime soon.

As long as employees are keen and alert to what is happening with the customers on the shelves, shoplifting will be reduced drastically.

It is important to pay special attention to blind spots in the store and identify suspicious behavior.

Due to supermarkets’ dependency on second effective methods like cameras, supermarkets continue to lose 1.35% of their inventory due to theft.

This might not seem like much loss on the surface. Unfortunately, this is a lot when you consider the profits at stake.

As I have pointed out, supermarkets have very thin profit margins.

While installing expensive cameras is a good thing for any supermarket, I still recommend training your employees to be attentive and identify potential shoplifters, monitoring them all the way.

With properly trained and attentive employees, you will quickly get hands-on customer service, allowing you to spot potential shoplifters.

I have found that customers who loiter without a basket or a cart generally try avoiding employee encounters.

How Do Supermarkets Detect Stolen Goods?

Although this strategy cannot be relied upon to cut out theft fully, it is handy in helping grocery stores to become more attentive and aware.

For instance, large shopping bags, moving in groups, hanging around particular areas for too long may indicate a likelihood of an impending theft.

Again, I have seen shoplifters stooping and hiding their hands to conceal an item.

I would advise you to engage any customer you note with this type of behavior. I am not saying that you accuse them, No.

Pretend that you have not suspected any abnormal behavior and ask them if they need any help with anything.

This will be handy in pre-emptying their pre-planned theft.

However, if you feel incapacitated to handle this case, it might be a good idea to report it to the manager immediately so that an eye is kept on the suspect.

What Is The Most Stolen Item In A Grocery Store?

Yes. Shoplifters have specific items that they mostly target for shoplifting in supermarkets. These include steaks, meat, steaks, roasts, ground beef, among others.

Still, energy drinks, cosmetics, and counter medicine are on the watch list for the most stolen items in supermarkets.

By default, these are the items that happen to be both small and expensive, items that can be easily concealed.

Additionally, these items are left with no security tagging, notwithstanding they are left out in the open.

Since most shoplifters perpetrate the heinous theft to return it later for cashback, they prefer the highly-priced things like cosmetics and over-the-counter medicine.

However, it might turn out to be tricky when it comes to spotting a thief. This is especially true during winter as everyone wears a big coat.

This makes it hard to separate genuine shoppers from potential shoplifters.

Consequently, it gets relatively easy for a shoplifter to sneak an item up and shove it in their coat with minimal possibility of being detected.

This calls for well-trained employees.It is easy for a well-trained employee to spot the thief.

While a shopper might think that the person is overweight, a well-trained employee might see a potential shoplifter with an oversized coat for concealment.

There is a time I busted a woman with several meat packages stuffed in her workout pants, concealed by an oversize topcoat.

Can Unscanned Barcodes Set Off Alarms?

No, not really. Barcodes are inventory features, as opposed to security features. Therefore, they will not set off alarms, alerting you of any theft.

However, security sensors will work well in some cases. Indeed, you might have noticed that the cashier doesn’t always scan each item.

Especially if you buy multiples of the same item. They indicate the number of the items and then scan one item.

This leaves some barcodes unscanned, although all the items are accounted for. I know when this happened, you exited the supermarket without setting off an alarm.

Indeed, if these unscanned barcodes would set off an alarm, the alarms would not be silent throughout the day.

But I am not saying that aren’t items with security tags. Indeed, frequently stolen items are mostly fitted with a security tag.

However, it is rare for supermarkets to use security tags. This is mostly due to the time that this would take during checkout removing the security tags.

There would be unnecessarily long lines requiring additional personnel.

This is not a thing you would want to see in any store, and I highly doubt anyone wants to spend more time in a store than it is reasonably acceptable.  

Will A Supermarket Know When Something Is Stolen?

Yes. Many stores conduct their inventory at the end of the month. Others do their inventory quarterly.

After doing their inventory, it is easy to know the number of items they received and the number that can be accounted for.

Items that cannot be accounted for are regarded as stolen. As I have insinuated, security scanners are not a common thing in supermarkets.

Consequently, it is not an easy task to know when a thing has been stolen.

While supermarkets do their inventories regularly, they know that they cannot prevent every theft but strive to minimize it.

Since many thieves steal and return the item for a cashback, the store cannot verify the original purchase without a receipt.

During the Passover holidays, a man wanted cashback for 15 lbs of shrimp where he didn’t have a receipt of the shrimp.

He furiously shouted how the shrimp made some of his dinner guests sick. Since there were many customers, I calmed asked him to describe the employee who served him.

He gave a vague description, prompting me to request him to follow me to the seafood counter. He was unable to identify any of our employees.

I decided to go through the sales that day in question and discovered there was no sale of such a large order of shrimp. He quickly walked away.

This is where a receipt comes in handy if you want a return. You will most likely not receive your cashback if you can’t produce your receipt.

While customers perpetrate theft, employees are also known to execute a lot of internal theft as well.

This accounts for small thefts that happen all the time in supermarkets. Unfortunately, it is very hard to catch employees who steal as they know all the tricks.

They know the best time to do it, and they might be the ones who are watching your store from shoplifters! So should we call this “friendly theft?”

Are Undercover Cops Useful In Grocery Stores?

Yes, many grocery stores use uniformed cops and undercover cops. Still, others go for private security.

However, these are mostly meant to deter theft other than arresting or catching thieves.

Since security guards and officers are trained on looking for suspicious behavior, it is easy for them to identify a potential shoplifter.

When a thief feels they are being watched, they will leave quickly.

Since most state troopers and police officers are lowly paid, they will take up security jobs as a side hassle to earn extra income.

Do All Grocery Stores Sell Liquor?

There are times grocery stores will prefer hiring private security. Although they are not allowed to make arrests, they can detain a shoplifter until police arrive.

Most grocery stores employ loss prevention employees who do not wear a uniform.

It is easy for them to recognize frequent shoplifters since they are trained in recognizing potential shoplifters.

Additionally, all supermarkets have cameras. Therefore, they will see you, even if you are not caught the first time; it is just a matter of time.

Do Employees Deliberately Steal?

Yes. Statistics show that about 95% of employees steal from their employer each year.

Indeed, 1 out of 50 employees gets arrested for stealing every year. These being the ones caught, those who steal and get away with it are many.

This type of theft is common. Most employees steal smaller items for personal consumption.

However, I once caught our meat manager loading 50 kgs of meat into his car. I was forced to fire him immediately.

But I wondered where he would take all the meat. Was it for storing in the fridge? Unfortunately, this might have been happening for years before I caught him.

Many reasons might make an employee steal. First, they might feel that they earn peanuts and are entitled to steal to boost their salary.

Still, they might think that the employer is making too much money and don’t want to miss out.

Again, they might have seen others who steal and get away with it without being caught.

In other instances, they might have caught the boss in a compromising situation, doing things against company policy.

Consequently, the reason that rules may not need to be followed.

I have learned several things. For instance, complete eradication of theft in a supermarket is not easy.

However, it is possible to reduce it to a minimum by following a few rules, like treating all forms of theft the same, whether small or great.

Again, I would recommend that you ensure fairness and firmness when handling incidences of employee theft.

Lastly, do not expect your employees to follow rules that you cannot follow.

Can Modern Technology Work Well In A Supermarket?

Yes. Since the loss of revenue that goes to shoplifters is rising, many supermarkets and grocery stores are resorting to modern technology to arrest the problem.

And they are not getting disappointed.

Shoplifters target vulnerable areas in supermarkets like the fresh food department; poultry, meat, and seafood departments; beverages; cheeses; and other liquid products.

Fortunately, Nexo, a Swiss security technology provider, has begun using smart Thermal Visual Tracking software in conjunction with FLIR thermal cameras .

They offer solutions to supermarkets’ thefts, preventing the loss of inventory.

Nexo has conducted extensive research in shoplifting and is now providing help from its grip in supermarkets.

In collaboration with Sefitalia, Italian security research and development company, Nexo has come up with the supermarket antitheft called predator.

This focuses on the food and retail sectors. Predator uses FLIR thermal imaging cameras to measure heat variations.

When someone has stolen something and hidden it under clothing.

XPredator will produce another color on the thermal image of the thief’s body, highlighting the stolen item or goods hidden under the subject’s clothing.

Shoplifting can be fought using two-way mirrors, convex wall mirrors, surveillance cameras, and undercover security detectives.

The effectiveness of these tools is handy when the thief is caught red-handed.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to use these tools once the thief has succeeded in concealing the stolen product in their clothing or bag.

Fortunately, if you have installed XPredator, you will be able to recover goods hidden under clothing as it works by identifying a heat difference between your body and the stolen goods.


Supermarkets use various ways to detect stolen goods. They can use mirrors, cameras, trained employees, or even hi-tech methods like using the XPredator.


Hi! I' am Tom. I was a manager in one of the biggest stores for over 10 Years, am also an SEO by night. I don't like to call myself a blogger; they are very analytical, do email marketing, and know all SEO stuff. I faced many questions from customers about different products, and there was hardly any help on the internet. After learning all the things about these products as a manager the hard way, I decided to start a blog and help other people.

Recent Posts