L.Last week, while inspecting the self-scan section of a large London supermarket, James let a woman out with three multipacks of baby yogurt. He randomly checked her shopping and found that some of the items she had not scanned were yogurt, as well as some pouches of baby food. Feeling frightened, she says she was quick to decide for herself how “worthy” she was – that she was young and had three children under the age of five, she had healthy start vouchers, which allowed people to. Universal credit and other benefits to buying nutritious food, that the rest of her shopping was healthy without any junk food or alcohol, and she was really embarrassed and frustrated. He says, “I couldn’t bring myself to take these four or five items from him, so I left.” “It wasn’t a big loss for the company. They weren’t like luxury items. I just said: ‘Don’t worry, but next time no one else will let it slide.’ “He knows he can be fired for it.”
In another supermarket, in a city across the country, Alexander was spotted by a young couple who could not afford to pay for their shopping at a nearby checkout. They spent more than £ 100, paid in cash for some of it, and tried to keep the rest on credit cards – not uncommon, he says, but the card was rejected. “For the next half hour, they took a checkout, which we had to turn off, and someone had to stand with them while they were making phone calls, probably to find some money or to fix the problem on the card,” he says. . The pregnant woman burst into tears and tears. “It simply came to our notice then. If the credit card doesn’t work, most people have another card, but obviously they have no means of paying. Eventually, they gave up half of their purchases.
Inflation has reached a 40-year high of 9%, partly due to higher food prices rising since 2011. Then there is the rising cost of other essentials – housing, energy, petrol, phones and broadband bills. People – and inequalities in those poorest households – are squeezing, and those who work in supermarkets are seeing it every day. Last week, Andy Cook, the new chief inspector of the constabulary, said police officers should use their “discretion” – and they often need to exercise discretion when dealing with poverty crimes, especially theft for food. Police Secretary Kit Malthaus then said police officers “should not ignore these petty crimes.”
But this is not just theft. Supermarket workers say they see people putting back products they can’t afford or making difficult choices about what to buy. There are many others, obviously people who do not struggle to make small changes: cheaper sausages than the premium range, heavier market brand name than own-brand deodorant. “People are returning things like strawberries and buying bananas,” says a man who works at a large Tesco. “Cherries are £ 15 a kilo and they’re not really selling. First, you’ll see people coming for bread and milk and get a few bits. Now it’s bread and milk and that’s it. There are very few ‘luxuries’ to buy.”
A few weeks ago, Tesco chairman John Allen reported that supermarkets had seen “real food poverty for the first time in a generation” and urged checkout staff to stop scanning their purchases when customers reached £ 40. They don’t want to, or can’t afford to. Leela, who works at a supermarket on the South Coast, also says that many people are urging her to stop putting goods when she reaches कुल 40 or कुल 50 in total. “Then they would take out alcohol or confectionery and replace it with bread,” she says. It’s not like they put their priority items first, she says, “People don’t realize how much the price has gone up until they get to the tail and then they like: ‘Oh, wow.’ This, of course, has changed the way people shop – they’re thinking: ‘Do I need this?’ ” “I have to do it now or I forget, and it’s really important,” she said.
Even in high-end supermarkets, high prices are noted, even if their customers are not particularly impressed by them. “Sometimes, when I finally bill them, I feel a little guilty,” says Kee, who works at the checkout at Waitrose. “I just say, ‘Oh my God, this is really bad, isn’t it?’ And they know ‘yes’, but most of them can afford it. If they can’t afford it, they can shop somewhere. ” She has seen the impact on older people who use the supermarket for convenience. “We know the regulars and you notice they don’t put so much in the basket.” And employees now shop less there, she says, “including me. We get very good discounts, but I started shopping at Lidl and Aldi, where I would have [shopped at Waitrose] First I’ve seen prices of things I usually buy, which is another 30p or 50p higher.
She says thefts have increased, and supermarkets have put up security guards, but she says it’s not too hard for experienced store thieves to throw away extra items in customers’ bags as they take products such as meat, alcohol and razors. To sell blades. The picture is different elsewhere. One of the supermarket workers I spoke to said that morning, an elderly woman claimed that she had already paid for the half-hidden orange bag in the trolley, but could not produce a receipt. “The woman was a little worried about whether she had dementia, and she may have forgotten,” he says, but after talking to her – and checking in with her co-worker at a checkout claiming she had paid – the staff believed her. It was more likely that he intended to take it without payment.
Nick works nights in a big supermarket, stacking selfies and restocking freezers. He always finds empty packets, takes their contents, hides them behind a shelf or under a bag of frozen peas, “but lately it seems to have increased. Over the years, I’ve been finding more and more. Things like luggage may have been tagged somewhere in the store, but he says, “It seems to have stopped. Now, it’s a daily product. “In the past few weeks, he’s found empty packets of toothpaste and painkillers, such as Voltarol,” which suggests pensioners are doing it. ” Another thing that is usually stolen, he says. “Last weekend, I found tags from baby socks.”
Supermarket workers tell people to know when things are falling apart and to use physical force to reach them. “My coworkers usually do that, and there may be 10 or 12 clients around them,” says Alexander. “She has to stand back and shout at them because she’s got this repression, and it seems to be getting worse.”
That’s what James saw in a large supermarket in London. Over the past two months he has seen the number of people standing in double queues, and on Sunday at 3 pm waiting for fewer items, especially meat trays, to come out at the big door of the warehouse. “There will be people waiting for the poor spirit to get them out and they won’t even reach the fridge,” he says. “Before he arrives, people are tearing up his tray. It’s less embarrassing – it doesn’t mean there should be any shame, but people are paying less attention to what it looks like.” But now there are a lot of people who are “elbows in their patches.” It’s a bit regional. “He remembers pushing people to the lower tray of strawberries, and the manager had to call security guards to get people back.
The climate has changed, says James. Customers are tougher and more aggressive. He doesn’t know if it’s a hangover from the stressful days of lockdown shopping, when people are scared and navigating new rules, or if the cost of living is taking its toll – probably both, he says. “They’re too short for you, dismissing you as a person.” He thinks supermarket workers, many of them themselves, are experiencing public outrage at rising prices, albeit slightly higher than the national minimum wage. “You’re in uniform. They don’t see you as a person. They see you as an extension of the company you work for, so people shout at you.” Customers will shout at him saying that no product is a special offer anymore, he says. “People’s fuses are short. People are under pressure.”
Many of the clients he knows have come after him, whom he has told them to work for a long time. Another thing he noticed – perhaps because parents have been at work for so long – is the rise of kids around 11 or 12, doing small basket shops. “They always pay in cash, and many times they get shorter. They’re about 50p shorter and they’re like: ‘Can you remove it?'” He says, asking kids to put back things they’ve already scanned. He carries cash floats, usually small changes left by copper and other customers, and – after checking with his boss – often pays for their goods.
Theft, James says, has “increased enormously” since the beginning of the year, probably by half. Some of these are experienced shoplifters, he says, “people trying to get out with a vacuum cleaner or a TV or a trolley full of fish; Those in nice cars and nice clothes. They are not in need. “But it is rare for the police to come out,” he said. “The police don’t really come out for anything but violence. Usually nothing happens [to shoplifters] And for some people, it’s worth the risk. “
What James has noticed, though, is that “real people who aren’t ‘shoplifting’ are simply struggling not to pay for all their shopping,” he says. He can find them – they are guilty of paying – and they are shocked when they are arrested. He says there have been at least two or three incidents while working in each shift. “People ‘forget’ to scan expensive items, such as boxes of washing powder, things that don’t need approval. [unlike alcohol]In a world where some families can’t run a stove, pre-cooked meat packets, “missing” is another regular item. The average customer, he says, “didn’t scan a big bottle of comfort, yet he has only 10 items, so it’s a ‘happy accident’.” When you point out that it’s not scanned and you scan it, they’re like: ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was worth it – I won’t take it anymore.’ Then I feel bad because this lady has gone without clothes softener because she can’t buy it – but then she tried to pick up the shop.
“It’s hard, and I don’t try to judge anyone because it’s hard for people. You can tell which people are shamelessly trying it, and which people are struggling. Either way, it doesn’t really matter because you still What to do. Sometimes except when he doesn’t.