A furious customer has been filmed using a hammer to smash one of the new self-service gates at Woolworths.
Video posted to social media on Tuesday showed a woman, wearing black pants, a purple hoodie and a surgical face mask, approaching a self-service area at the supermarket holding a hammer.
She strikes at the gate three times and flings a handful of flyers into the checkout area. Photos show the flyers read “smash the gates”.
The footage was uploaded to X, formerly known as Twitter, and Facebook by the left-wing activist group Whistleblowers, Activists and Communities Alliance (WACA).
“News flash Woolies — customers don’t want to be falsely imprisoned in your self-serve check-outs!” WACA wrote on X.
“Isn’t it enough forcing people into self-serve while Woolies and Coles have made exploitative profits? Some customers have taken the matter into their own hands today. #SmashTheGates”
Woolworths and Coles have both rolled out new smart gates at self-service check-outs and other technology in a bid to tackle a 20 per cent increase in supermarket theft, which costs retailers $9 billion a year.
According to WACA, the hammer incident was filmed at Woolworths Moorabbin in Melbourne’s southeast.
“The gates have been part of a highly contentious revamp on security to prevent theft during a cost-of-living crisis,” the group wrote on Facebook.
“Customers are held inside the shopping centre by a locked gate until they can prove they have paid for their goods.”
This is not strictly accurate, with shoppers reporting they are able to leave the self-serve area through the gates without having to show receipts.
The supermarket giants have reaped the benefits of high grocery prices, reporting profits of $1.6 billion and $1.1 billion respectively last financial year.
“While people are struggling to put food on the table and take care of their families, Woolworths is paying their CEO upwards of $20,000 per day,” WACA wrote.
“Woolworths has also been accused of exploiting the public by significantly ramping up prices … Further escalations are likely and may cost the company thousands, repairing not just their security devices but also their image.”
The video received mixed response online.
“This is just abusive and creating a dangerous workplace for the lowest paid casual retail staff. Take your violent protest to the decision makers, not the casuals,” one X user wrote.
Another said, “This is just vandalism, plain and simple. You are complaining about price gouging but think this is OK? You do realise we the customer pay for this behaviour also, if you don’t like their security shop somewhere else. Simple. They are doing this to stop thefts, we all pay for.”
A third said, “Childish behaviour.”
Woolworths and Victoria Police have been contacted for comment.
It comes after Woolworths rolled out artificial intelligence-powered cameras at hundreds of stores to monitor customers scanning items, following a trial of the technology last year.
Woolworths said the cameras help to prevent “misscans”.
If the camera detects any scanning errors, footage captured is replayed to the customer on the screen to give them an opportunity to re-scan.
“It helps reduce misscans and is one of a number of initiatives we’ve rolled out across our check-outs to make shopping more convenient and seamless,” a spokesperson said during the trial phase.
“While most customers do the right thing at our self-serve check-outs, we’re all busy and mistakes can easily happen.”
Coles, meanwhile, is rolling out new technology that will track shoppers’ every move from the moment they walk into a store.
Overhead cameras, trolley locks, smart gates and, perhaps most bizarrely, fog machines will be introduced in a desperate bid to tackle rising theft.
“If you’re a thief, we’re gonna catch ya,” Coles’ chief operating officer Matt Swindells told Nine’s A Current Affair earlier this month.
The move came after the retail giant announced it would also roll out body-worn cameras for staff after an alarming increase in violent behaviour towards workers.
“It’s important to note that the majority of customers do the right thing in store. Measures like this are for the ones who don’t,” a Coles spokesperson told news.com.au.
“The safety of our team members and customers is our top priority, and we have a range of security measures in place to reduce theft from our stores, including security personnel and surveillance technologies such as CCTV.”
Alarming figures from tech firm Sonder last month showed a 35 per cent spike in police call-outs to stores including Woolworths and Big W, with assaults on retailer workers emerging as the most common reason.
Major retailers including Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings are increasingly turning to hi-tech, AI-powered solutions including facial recognition and licence plate scanning to crack down on retail crime.
Last month, the founder of a controversial crime intelligence platform used by 40 per cent of Australian retailers said about $15 million a day was being stolen across the country, typically by organised crime groups.
“Ten per cent of people are causing 60 per cent of the loss,” Auror chief executive Phil Thomson told news.com.au.
“The fact is those people doing more than shoplifting, they’re generally involved in gangs, guns and drugs. They’re doing this as their job. It’s $1000 at a time, not stealing some sausages and bread for dinner.”
Mr Thomson said those repeat offenders were “four times more likely to be violent or aggressive”. “They’re using that as a tactic,” he said.
“In Australian supermarkets we’ve seen tasers and broken bottles being brandished, box cutters and screwdrivers used to threaten because they know they’ll be allowed to get out of the store.”
Consumer prices rose 6 per cent in the 12 months to the June quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), down from a 7 per cent annual rise in March.
Annual inflation in food and non-alcoholic beverages remained high at 7.5 per cent but was down from 8 per cent in the March quarter and the peak of 9.2 per cent in the December quarter.
Price increases were highest for dairy products at 15.2 per cent, bread and cereal products at 11.6 per cent and other food products at 11.3 per cent, while price rises were softer for fresh food categories such as meat and seafood at 3.5 per cent, and fruit and vegetables at 1.6 per cent.
— with NCA NewsWire