A recent article in MIT Technology Review suggests that smart stores are going to have another benefit besides eliminating the expense of hiring check-out clerks. The stores Run by computers with little or no human intervention will cut down on crime.

Smart stores, for those who have never heard of them, operate without human checkout clerks. One pushes a cart down the aisle and, as one picks out an item, it is automatically added to one's check-out list. If one puts an item back on the shelf, it is deleted from the list. When one leaves the store the cost of the items are automatically deducted from one’s credit or debit card accessed by a smart phone.

One variant forces one to pay at a kiosk before leaving.

Shoplifting is very hard in a smart store

Rachel Metz, writing for MIT Technology Review, describes how she tried to shoplift a Red Bull from a prototype store run by a company called Standard Cognition. The check-out kiosk not only picked out most of the items in her cart (there are still some bugs in that system) but also the Red Bull that she had hidden up her shirt.

In the smart store set up, the exit doors do not open until one pays for every item one is trying to take out. This is an advance over the alarm system that most stores have installed at their exits, which picked up items that have not been scanned at the checkout stand. That system has cut down on shop lifting, but not entirely. Every convenience store gets hit periodically by people making “beer runs” in which someone grabs a six pack or a case and makes a run for it.

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Sometimes the security camera catches their faces, sometimes it doesn’t.

Stick ups are impossible if no clerks are present

One of the most terrifying aspects of being a store clerk is the prospect of someone putting a gun in his or her face and demanding the contents of the register. Modern stores cut down on loses by making sure the safe cannot be opened by the clerk and by instituting procedures in which money is regularly dropped in the safe. However, people who rob convenience stores are not the most stable people. A combination of adrenaline, machismo, and narcotics can get a clerk shot no matter what he or she does.

However, if everything is digital and no clerks are present, there is no one and nothing to rob. A robber would have to be an expert computer hacker to get into the smart store’s network. Expert hackers can make more money without fear of jail working in a cyber security job.