A view from the checkout: “now it’s people who steal everyday things” | Cost of living crisis

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Shoppers are changing their behavior as family budgets are under pressure due to soaring prices for basic necessities, from milk and cooking oil to dog food. Jane Jones, who works at a supermarket in Flintshire, Wales, says cash-strapped customers are looking for ways to cut spending.

“It’s completely different in the store. Some people don’t have to worry about money, but the average person spends less and people always complain about checkout prices.

Some people know when [the store] offers discounts. They come to the store at 8pm and you can see crowds of people at the discount counter climbing over each other to get what’s cheap. When there’s something on the aisle, people buy what’s cheap that week and don’t have it the next.

We used to have shoplifters stealing high value items to resell, which is not uncommon. Now it’s people who steal everyday things, do their weekly shopping and try to get out without paying.

Baby milk was never labeled safe, but now it is, so people can’t steal it. It was something that would never happen before, but people are pretty desperate.

There’s a lot going on [missing] via self-service: people who don’t scan everything are more prevalent than they used to be.

There are definitely a number of things that never had security tags before, but do now.

A lot of things have been taken off the shelves. We issue cards for things like printer ink and you have to pick it up from a secure area.

A lot of people say ‘when you get to £40 can you quit’ and then we look at their offers to see if they can buy more. You can see them prioritizing what they need up front [of the conveyor belt].

There have always been people who shop like this, who only have a certain amount of money to spend. It’s not a new thing, but it certainly happens more with people who usually didn’t care before and were careless and just bought what they needed or wanted. Now people are very careful about costs.

The supermarket has value lines and [premium] lines and people tend to buy more value brands now, which they seemed to have stopped doing a while ago.

We find a lot of things left at the end of the checkout – people think they shouldn’t have picked them up and have changed their minds. It must be hard for them but we don’t make them feel bad. We are in the same boat, we understand that we are not in high paying roles.

I try to shop smart. I spend a lot of time at the supermarket, so I see the deals and buy fewer treats, like a bottle of wine once in a while. You don’t plan meals based on what you like but what you can afford, what’s on Bogof (buy one get one free) or discounted.

Everything seems to have gone up in price a bit. Some things, like cat food, have increased dramatically. When you go around it might be 5p here and 10p there, but when you get to the checkout with 50 items in the cart, that’s a lot of money.

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