Walmart Self-Checkout Theft: Detection, Implications & Most Stolen Items

A big store like Walmart welcomes thousands of customers daily. Hence, you can imagine how much they pay cashiers at different branches at the end of every month. To cut costs on labor and theft (to some extent), self-checkout systems were introduced. 

While it is safe to say this innovation has simplified and made shopping more efficient, there is still a growing concern about theft.

This guide discusses how Walmart detects self-checkout theft, approaches it, and the possible consequences. You will also discover the different payment methods the automated device accepts and the most stolen items at Walmart. 

How Does Walmart Detect Theft at Self-Checkout? 


Walmart’s self-checkout devices have various components that help detect theft and prevent shoplifting. Here are 5 ways the device detects theft: 

  1. Barcode scanning: The station encourages customers to scan the barcode on every item. Failure to scan will raise suspicion and the device will alert security personnel. 
  2. Weight comparison: Self-checkout stations feature weight sensors. This allows it to weigh every item scanned by the customer and compare it with the overall weight of the shopping cart. The system will trigger an alert if there is a significant difference. 
  3. Camera and video analysis: Walmart self-checkout stations have advanced cameras that capture the image of items scanned and placed in the bags. It also records all the customer’s activity while in the station. These cameras are designed to analyze and raise alarms when they detect unusual behavior. 
  4. Security personnel: Walmart has security personnel or employees watching the self-checkout station for suspicious activity and will intervene when necessary. 
  5. Random audits: Occasionally, the self-checkout devices may engage in random audits. In this case, customers may be selected at random for manual checks by store personnel. This is one of the reasons customers do not like the device. 

Walmart Shoplifting Policy: What Happens When You Are Caught? 

Customers guilty of shoplifting or theft at Walmart will face any of these consequences: 

Legal penalties (imprisonment or jail)


Customers guilty of stealing items below $1000 may face a maximum of 6 months in prison or a fine up to $1000, or both. Participating in community service is another option. 

In a situation where the culprit has previously been convicted of shoplifting twice or more, imprisonment (with or without hard labor) for 2 years is very likely. They may also have to pay a fine of up to $2000.

Accumulated (theft) bills or charges

Not all shoplifting scenarios are treated as a felony. For example, if you visit Walmart twice every week and avoid scanning certain items, prevention loss personnel may not approach you if the value of the product is low. 

However, if you return the following week and do the same thing your theft charges will begin to accumulate. At this point, a Walmart employee will approach you and issue a theft charge worth the value of all the stolen items. 

Theft charges up to $1000 or more are considered a felony and will likely be addressed by a court. The outcome of such a case may include imprisonment, fine, community service, or probation, depending on your theft history and how good your lawyer is. 

Temporary or permanent restriction

Walmart also issues suspension to shoplifters. If you are a first offender, you may get suspended for a few days. On the other hand, customers with a history of theft may be restricted for life. 

When Walmart suspends you for life, it means you should not visit any of their outlets irrespective of your location. Failure to steer clear of Walmart stores will result in legal action. This may force you to pay a hefty fine, or spend a few months in jail, or both. 

Are Walmart Employees Allowed to Approach Shoplifters? 

For their safety and to avoid incurring costs on the company, Walmart does not encourage it. They have to call the manager or a loss prevention personnel and let them handle it. 

However, employees can employ certain tactics to prevent or stall suspected shoplifters without approaching them. They can deactivate the register to force the customer to request for help. 

When called upon, they can pretend something is wrong with the machine and direct the customer to an aisle where they will be checked out manually. There are times when they direct the customers to the manager or prevention loss personnel. 

Can You Use Cash at Walmart Self-Checkout?

Walmart self-checkout stations accept cash. It also accepts digital payment options like gift cards, debit cards, credit cards, and EBT cards. Unfortunately, this automated device does not accept checks. Customers with checks must go through the regular checkout lane. 

The best way to know the available and acceptable payment method is to check the system’s screen. 

What are the Most Stolen Items at Walmart? 

Despite the introduction of security measures, Walmart still records cases of shoplifting regularly. Some of the most stolen items in the mall include: 

  1. Alcohol: This is non-arguably one of the most stolen items in every supermarket. They are usually very expensive and can be sold outside the mall to earn good money. 
  2. Cosmetic: Because they are small and can be concealed easily. They also boast decent resell value and are mostly targeted by teens who want to experiment with a new look without parting with their money. 
  3. Sunglasses: Like cosmetics, they fit in bags seamlessly and are mostly stolen by teens. Even if you are caught on camera stealing this item, Walmart may not approach you if the price is cheap or you are the first offender. However, you will be penalized if you repeat your mistake. 
  4. Razor blades: Thieves target razor blades because they do not have a steep price. In addition, they know if they are caught, they won’t be in serious trouble. They either have to pay a fine or face restrictions. 
  5. Over-the-counter medications: Many customers cannot afford the drugs they need. Hence, they resort to theft. The punishment for stealing a medication usually depends on its value. 

Other items customers steal the most include

  • Sunglasses
  • Jeans
  • Jewelry
  • Blu-rays and DVDs
  • Baby formula
  • Smartphone accessories 
  • Sporting materials
  • Cigarettes
  • Portable electronics (like video games)


How long does Walmart keep self-checkout theft footage?

6 months to a year. Some footage may be kept for an extended period if they might serve as evidence in the future. 

What happens if you accidentally steal from self-checkout?

While this may be weird, if you shoplift by mistake or error and can prove it, you will be asked to pay a fine equivalent to the price of the item or more. 

Will Walmart chase you if you steal?

No, Walmart employees, including managers will not touch you or obstruct you from leaving the store. They will call the cops if you are uncooperative. 

The Bottom Line: Walmart Self-Checkout Theft

Walmart has designed a tough system against shoplifting, and if there is one device that largely exposes theft, it is the self-checkout device. This system features a camera and scanner that analyses your behavior as a customer. 

Once it triggers Walmart employees about suspicious activity, you will be redirected to the manual checkout aisle or to see the manager. Punishment for shoplifting can be civil or legal. Civil penalties apply to first-offenders (mostly), while the latter is for those with a theft history. 

I hope you found this guide helpful. For further reading, please see what you can buy with EBT at Walmart

Thanks for reading.