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Computer Opens Unmanned Store For Holiday 333

tomhudson writes "The Walkato Times in New Zealand is reporting that someone forgot to tell the computer not to unlock the supermarket on the Friday holiday. 'About half of the 24 people who came into the supermarket paid for their groceries using the self-scan service. The service stopped working after alcohol was scanned, requiring a staff member to check a customer's age before the system is unlocked.' The owner, Mr Miller, was quoted as saying 'I can certainly see the funny side of it... but I'd rather not have the publicity to be honest. It makes me look a bit of a dickhead.' Rather than take legal action, Mr Miller is hoping that the people who didn't pay will do the right thing."


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Computer Opens Unmanned Store For Holiday

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  • That's about twice as many as I would expect! Good going.

    • Why do you expect 1/4th to be honest people? I wouldn't trust anybody.
      • by drb226 ( 1938360 )
        But can you trust more than 75% of people to be non-trustworthy?
      • Well the numbers would make sense.

        about 1/2 see this as a good steal and take advantage of it.
        about 1/4 would see it as a trick where they could get in trouble later in life. (oh the cameras will get me, or if I do this now and abuse the system they will tighten the system down)
        about 1/8 would see this as they will get in trouble after life (Religion is an attempt to keep society honest by removing the idea you can really get away with something if you don't get caught).
        about 1/8 are just very honest people

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by vlm ( 69642 )

          1/2 of the people in the USA make money, the other 1/2 spend whatever they can get from the productive half. I'm guessing the numbers are not all that different in .nz so I'm not surprised the ratio worked out that way.

          The non-productive half who sponge off the productive half probably see it as getting the middleman out of they way ... From each according to their ability, to each according to their need, etc.

          Alternately it might be a mapping of peer pressure, 1/2 will zombie like copy whatever they see o

          • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

            I went for some groceries yesterday evening. The total came to $59.xx and the clerk gave me $42.xx in change.

            I looked at the two extra $1's and then at the receipt to double check her error. I handed the money back to the clerk and went on my way.

            My point is that I am currently unemployed and "homeless" (currently staying with a friend). Sure, it would have been in my favor to just ignore her error and keep the extra two bucks. Under the circumstances, I gave it back because:

            1. The karma is worth more to m
      • Why do you expect 1/4th to be honest people? I wouldn't trust anybody.

        When you leave your desk to go home, do you lock all the drawers?

    • That's about twice as many as I would expect! Good going.

      I wonder how many of that half who didn't pay were trying to buy alcohol but had no one to authorize their purchase.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) *

      I expect that means a lot of them were too oblivious to even notice anything was off. Perhaps the normal staff tends to be 'away' from their post as a matter of course. :)

  • Only in NZ (Score:3, Funny)

    by kozmonaut ( 577220 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:54PM (#35932866)

    What a fantastic official response. If only managers in America would openly admit to being the dickheads they are...

    • Eheh, managers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:11PM (#35933090) Journal

      And what about the people who stole groceries? What are they? 1 manager, how many thieving customers?

      This is actually a useful social study and most liberals will NOT like the result. This "experiment" shows that a large number of people will ONLY obey the rules of society if somebody is standing behind them with a heavy stick.

      Yes, a lot of people will behave. For the rest, we need armed police and guard dogs. Pity. If only there was some method of getting rid of the assholes. But we can't and so to counter 1 asshole, we need the entire justice system. (Because while not everyone paid, a few will also simply have left without taking anything)

      If you ever handle an event or social place, you will know just how annoying the dickheads are, managers or otherwise. You can do so many things in a world without dickheads. For instance, you hate 3g coverage and price? No problem just use my Wifi. I don't mind you downloading email or browsing on it. Oh wait, I got to use a password because 1 dickhead in thousands will use it to break the law. No easy free roaming wifi for everyone else.

      • Why is it that "most liberals will NOT like the result."? Isn't it is the *conservatives* who keep saying "we don't need more big government, we can self-regulate." ?

        • Whats the difference between a conservative and a liberal.

          Liberals want the government to fix everyones problems.
          Conservatives want the government to fix their problems. Everyone else is on their own.

          dont believe me? Ask a conservative on SSN or medicare or farm subsidies or whatever government program they might get money from if they are ok losing their services. It is only the other guy who doesnt deserve it.

      • Re:Eheh, managers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:59PM (#35933788)

        I used to be pretty cynical about humanity until I worked in a grocery store in the hood once in college. I was expecting to encounter a lot of thieves and miscellaneous punks, but they were actually very rare (even in one of the shittiest neighborhoods in town). I encountered WAY more people who would point out to me that I gave them too much change than who were out to steal or con. I had many a gang-banger tell me when I had undercharged them and many people who would offer to pay for something even if they dropped it.

        People are actually, by and large, a pretty decent lot. And that's true pretty much anywhere you go, I suspect.

        • by cusco ( 717999 )
          Indeed. My wife works at a large retailer. She says that she sees far more middle/upper class customers trying to rip off her store than poor/lower class. The worst apparently are the 'trophy wives' who have nothing more to do than make a cashier or customer service person's afternoon miserable.
      • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

        -1, Troll.

        Trying to ignite a political flame war with a idiotic screed about how a slow news day story proves liberals are wrong about supposedly not wanting the rule of law? Your trolling is far too obvious. Try a little subtlety next time.

      • Re:Eheh, managers (Score:4, Interesting)

        by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @04:09PM (#35933902) Journal

        This is actually a useful social study and most liberals will NOT like the result. This "experiment" shows that a large number of people will ONLY obey the rules of society if somebody is standing behind them with a heavy stick.

        You're making an implication that this means that we have to stand behind them with a heavy stick to obey. The German Bahn system works by letting pretty much anyone on board. If it's ICE, or regional then you're probably going to have your ticket checked by an attendant... the punishment for boarding without a ticket? Buying a ticket. What happens if you just happen to be in the bathroom when they pass? Nothing.

        If you're using the S-Bahns, or U-Bahns, or Straßebahns, then you're less likely to get checked, but the costs go up equivalently. The fee for using the S-Bahns/U-Bahns without a ticket? About 40€, which puts it at the same cost as a month-long ticket.

        The advantages of this system are: no annoying turnstiles that don't let you through unless you have a ticket, no need to hire armed guards to patrol the facilities looking for people trying to beat the system, and while sure, some people get through without paying, and perhaps even ride a lot without paying, those that you do catch end up paying for a monthly ticket anyways, so you still get the funding that you need to keep operating, and the person learns a lesson in social responsibility...

        And of course, even if you do stand behind them with a big stick, you're never going to completely stop everyone from ever committing a crime... that's simply a fact... and of course, the wonderful lesson here is: only a police state will stand behind you all the time with a big stick threatening to use it if you break the law... because only in a police state do they feel the need to ensure that people don't ever break the law in the first place.

      • Actually, as noted in the summary (you didn't even read the summary?) the system stopped working when someone scanned an alcoholic beverage, as this requires a human to manually verify the id. It might actually have been that everyone who walked in the store at least tried to be honest, but just couldn't pay because the machine was "broken".

        Reminds me of Clerks a bit, I must say

    • by xgr3gx ( 1068984 )

      I was surprised to see 'dickhead' in an official response. Is it a less vulgar term in NZ than in the US?

    • Maybe. Or maybe because the cost of fighting it in court with attorney fees would offset the losses in theft.

  • Tough choice. I wonder how many people stopped paying after the self-scan stopped working.
    • by osgeek ( 239988 )

      To not walk out of a store with unpaid-for products is a tough choice? How so? Unless there was some kind of life threatening emergency, I wouldn't even consider stealing. That half... HALF of the people that went into the store would walk out without paying is really disappointing.

      • I once ate lunch at a 'greasy spoon' at the local general aviation airport before taking my plane out for some practice around the pattern. I forgot to pay for the meal (you have to go up to the resister to pay) on the way out because my mind was too involved with my pre-flight requirements. On the way out of the airport I stopped back in to the restaurant to pay the bill (a bit red in the face), also left a big tip!

        • The people who opted not to pay probably don't own their own planes.

          Not saying that makes it right by any means, just that your experience may not be representative.

          • Erm, not sure I see the link between being a pilot and returning later to pay for something you forgot or couldn't pay for at the time.
      • Not quite the same thing, but I'd liken it to iTunes. iTunes basically took off not because people really wanted to pay for music very badly, but because they made getting legitimate music easier than pirating it, and price it such that paying really wasn't a huge deal. Getting caught doing this wasn't a huge detterent because almost no one ever got caught.

        In the same light, many people might not have an issue paying for the groceries (even if they could take them without being caught) if it was quick and

  • So after the Zombie uprising I won't have to break into places because they now open themselves regardless of if anyone is there to watch over them?

    • No - rather you won't be save inside modern shopping malls because it's going to unlock and let all the zombies in :).

      My thought has always been that I'll just hangout in my attic in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I could make access (cutting a hole) to the roof if need be to get away - there is no way up into the attic without pulling down a draw string that can easily be retracted - AND I could "borrow" into my pantry to retrieve groceries as needed (assuming I didn't have time to move all the canned

      • (and in reality the bag is more just for "general purpose emergency use" than for zombies)

        It would be better to make it a multipurpose apocalypse bag. Silver bullets will still kill zombies (if you shoot them in the head), but will also work on other supernatural creatures, etc. Multi-purpose in your "go bag" is always a good thing.

        I recommend a six-demon bag, too. :)

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:55PM (#35932896) Journal

    About half of the 24 people who came into the supermarket paid for their groceries using the self-scan service

    Note that this doesn't say that all 24 people who came into the supermarket took anything in the first place. I can easily see some going in and filling the shopping cart, but then noticing that registers are unmanned and leaving the cart in the shop (if e.g. the person doesn't feel like using self-checkout, or doesn't know how).

    It would be interesting to know how many actually didn't pay for something that they took.

    • by osgeek ( 239988 )

      Well, yeah. That's a good point. Some did just stroll out with merchandise, though.

    • I'll bet they counted the people using CCTV footage, so they would know exactly how many people there were and whether they paid, and whether they left their merchandise behind. My question is, were there 24 customers total, or were there only 24 customers who left with goods?

      My hypothetical fantasy: there were 12 people who paid at the self-checkout, 6 who made it to the register and abandoned their goods, 3 who took their shopping with them without paying, and two who tried to lift everything they coul

      • I'll bet they counted the people using CCTV footage, so they would know exactly how many people there were and whether they paid, and whether they left their merchandise behind. My question is, were there 24 customers total, or were there only 24 customers who left with goods?

        Per TFA, the store opened at 8am, and was closed at 9:20am. Given that it is a holiday, I wouldn't expect many people trying to shop around at this time, so 24 customers sounds legit.

        But yeah, it's clear from TFA that they have all records from cameras, so they know exactly how many there are. It's just that it's not in the article (or worded such that it is unclear).

    • Video (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Link []
      Includes some CCTV footage.

      • Re:Video (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @04:22PM (#35934080) Journal

        Thanks! This has the missing bit - specifically, there is a mention that "over 50 people" visited the store. So then 24 is likely to be the number of those who actually took something.

        Another interesting thing in the report is that store owner agreed to release CCTV footage to the TV network only on the condition that they blur the faces of all customers - even those who can be seen not paying in the video. It's a good thing to see such respectful attitude towards privacy, especially when the owner has all reasons to not be polite towards those people.

    • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @07:37PM (#35936322) Journal
      If this were Canada, the other twelve people would still be waiting in line for the checkout clerk to come back.
  • by Que_Ball ( 44131 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:02PM (#35932964)

    So I infer from the description that if those first customers did not lock up all the checkouts by scanning in Alcohol perhaps more of the later customers could have also paid for their purchases.

    • Taking anything in most societies without paying is theft, in some cases you lose a hand. In some you get people hoping you come back and do the right thing. The mechanism or justification of theft doesn't override the intent and in many cases the consequences. I wish people would stop trying to infer that somehow equipment, technology or something A, B or C is somehow responsible or justifies the actions of criminals.
      • Not that I agree with not paying in any way, but I'm curious: would you consider it necessary for them to put all their merchandise back before they leave? Or can they just leave the cart at the front and walk out? What about any refrigerated items? Should they be responsible for those if they leave the cart and they spoil? What if the person is managing a small child or two? Maybe they don't have time to put everything back. Maybe they or a loved one have a medical condition that requires them to get

        • More to the point, what if you really needed that butter, couldn't pay because the register was locked, and planned to return on Monday with cash? Is that so bad?

          • That is a good point, and the intent is/was good. However, it still sadly constitutes theft due leaving without payment. Now, leave and IOU might be different. It really depends on what kind of agreement you have with the establishment. If it was so tight you could leave and come back and pay in full later, likely you would know the owner and/or managers and call them or the police and have this whole thing settled in a matter of minutes (maybe 10-15). If you were that close to them, sticking around t
        • Moving stuff around a store and not putting it back is just a hassle to the establishment, but not illegal. Changing price tags is illegal, intent to defraud. Leaving with groceries not paid is illegal, theft. Scanning one's own items, paying in full and leaving is perfectly cool. Not putting items back on the shelf is fine, a problem but not theft and not likely illegal unless the intent is to disrupt the establishments ability to conduct business. Then it would seem more of a civil matter for the cou
  • From all of the claims the *AA made, I would have expected an empty store and 0 paying customers.

    • Well it's not America. Just look how long it look for looting to start in Japan, compared to Katrina. Cultures with history and a lack of diversity seem to get along much better.

      • If this were to happen in Japan, they'd have 90% or more that would have paid. They are a society that loves rules and order and (to an extent) they still believe in personal honor.

    • If it were open like this every day, and kids could see their friends go in and take items out of the store without paying day after day, yes the store would be empty soon. During disasters, looters take items from unguarded stores because they see others getting away with it and take advantage of the situation. Sometimes it even happens when the store is guarded, but the looters overwhelm the people guarding the store. At that point, the guards may decide to take drastic action, such as stating that looter
      • It's worth noting that 'looting' usually follows something pretty big and serious happening. Otherwise all shopping centers would require armed security at all times.

        • The problem is that once there's no security and some people realize that they can take without being punished, that releases a flood of people who will overwhelm anyone but armed security. That's why all stores have some type of security and typically prosecute shoplifters. If they didn't, they'd be looted. On the Internet, there is no security, so downloaders feel free to download whatever they want without paying, thinking they'll never be caught.
          • The problem is that once there's no security and some people realize that they can take without being punished, that releases a flood of people who will overwhelm anyone but armed security.

            It's not just that, there's always something like a natural disaster motivating it. Again, if it were just as simple as you're saying, it'd be a huge free-for-all.

  • Brillant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:13PM (#35933114) Homepage

    So let me get this straight... Somebody designed and built a computer-controlled lock system (that apparently also turns on the self-checkouts), and didn't think something like this would happen?

    Would it be that hard to have an "unlock" button to pair with the computer's instructions? When the store's supposed to be locked, the button would do nothing. Between zero and five minutes after the scheduled opening, it unlocks the doors. Five minutes after opening time, a nice reminder sounds. After ten minutes, the computer could assume human error, and stop trying to unlock the doors.

    Developing and installing the system would likely cost a trivial amount compared to the risk of leaving a store unlocked and unattended all day.

  • In a world where the increasing response to our own stupidity is to litigate, kudos to the store owner for admitting a screw-up and taking responsibility.

    Double kudos to the folks who actually paid.

    Shame on the folks who stole. Double shame on them for not calling authorities when the store was unmanned. That's more than groceries.. what if the owner was being held at gun point in the back? Of course, can't expect people to actually do the *right thing*, now can we?

  • Hell, I'd pay extra for that level of service at most of the grocery stores around me!

  • In Related News... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidD_CA ( 750156 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @03:43PM (#35933574) Homepage

    In related news, grocery supermarket chain Pack-N-Save has announced they will be laying off 75% of their workforce. After a one-day experiment to test customer honesty and self-checkout systems, the chain discovered it would be cheaper to fire all of their checkout employees and let customers do it themselves.

    Other retail chains are expected to follow suit sometime later this year.

  • Given that they didn't have to pay any human staff, and 50% of customers paid, did they make or lose money? Also, if the automated teller hadn't of shutdown due to alcohol being purchased, would the number of paying customer have been much higher?

    • 1) Fire human employees.
    • 2) User computers.
    • 3) Relie on human honesty
    • 4) Profit!
  • Why would they have an automated system that opens the store without any operator intervention? I mean, I could understand if they had a system that went through the process of turning everything on and unlocking all the doors once there was someone there to turn a key or something... But to have it just automatically open the store at 8am every morning? The flaw in their system is so painfully obvious.

  • This is a chilling sign of the times, shows that an non-managed store could do sales... so with that PHBs may decide maybe only half the staff is really necessary or just a few attendants. Yeah, more layoffs, that will fix the economy*.

    (*economy == business profits)

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