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Big Y Pilots 'Sweethearting' Catcher

Big Y Foods, Inc., a 58-supermarket chain headquartered in Springfield, Mass., is piloting a new technology to reduce "sweethearting" at the checkout.

The grocer installed StopLift Checkout Vision Systems' video recognition software to catch sweethearting, when cashiers pretend to scan merchandise but deliberately bypass the scanner, thus not charging the customer for the merchandise. The customer is often a friend, family member, or fellow employee working in tandem with the cashier.

According to NRF's 2006 National Retail Security Survey, store employees steal $20 billion worth of merchandise a year, an estimated two thirds of that or $13 billion through sweethearting. Supermarkets are particularly vulnerable to sweethearting, which accounts for almost 35 percent in profit loss industrywide.

"We expect to have control over far more of our shrink and loss through the use of this emerging technology," said Mark Gaudette, director of loss prevention at Big Y. "StopLift will enable us to improve our cashier work force through better training as well as better systems to detect and control employee theft. While we have loss prevention technology throughout our stores, StopLift's is the first technology to address sweethearting."

The software monitors existing security cameras watching over the checkout registers. (Security cameras are at best sporadically monitored.) As soon as a sweethearting incident occurs, the software flags the transaction as suspicious, immediately reporting the incident, identifying the cashier and the date and time of the theft.

StopLift's patent-pending computer vision technology visually determines what occurs during each and every transaction to identify fraud at the checkout.
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