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My shoplifting shame - well, who hasn’t got in a muddle with the self service checkouts?

PUBLISHED: 12:58 29 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:39 29 May 2019

David Clayton came a cropped with a self service till at the weekend

David Clayton came a cropped with a self service till at the weekend

Archant norfolk

David Clayton is honest to a fault. But the machine made him a 20p thief. He is still smarting from the embarrassment

I'm still a tad nervous of self-service check-outs, not because they're difficult to master, no, it's because I don't want to look stupid while an impatient queue of shoppers stares at the back of my head when I can't fathom out what's gone wrong.

Here's a case in point.

I called into a railway station outlet to buy a couple of papers to while away the over-familiar journey to "that there London."

The two newspapers (and one was the EDP) came to £1.70.

If there was an assistant lurking, I didn't spot one, so strode confidently up to the self-service check-out and scanned the barcodes.

What could possibly go wrong with such a simple transaction?

I usually pay by card but with such a small amount and a pocket full of coins I popped in a pound, 50p and 20p.

Something whirred away in the bowels of the machine. I thought that's it, I've got my papers, it has my money, we're all square.

Just as I turned to go, out popped a 20p coin. Oh, I've got some change, must have mis-read the prices, or it's a buy-two-papers special offer (unlikely!). Thinking to myself, there's 20p the world has given back to me that I wasn't expecting, off I went.

A good omen for the day, I thought.

I stood by the door, fiddling as I put the papers into my bag.

Then two shop assistants appeared saying I'd walked away under-paying by 20p.

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"But it gave me 20p back," I pleaded as I walked back in with them.

I was admonished for not paying the full price which I was told I must have known; hence I should jolly well have paid it.

I repeated the fact I did, but the machine gave me the coin back. I don't think I was believed.

Not wanting to make a scene for the people staring at the back of my head, I extracted the recently won 20p from my pocket and put it back in the slot.

The machine gobbled it up, as if to say, "Got you!"

I tried to suggest that there might be something amiss with the self-service check-out's innards, but all I was told was, I should have pressed the "No bag" option because I was still "transacting" with the machine, even though I'd walked away.

It was only 20p, but I felt guilty and annoyed, and it didn't wear off until Colchester.

My problem is, I have a conscience and a large streak of honesty running through me.

I can still feel guilty about the time I went to whatever was the go-to Norwich DIY warehouse in 1975 to buy a stainless-steel sink/draining board for the house into which we'd just moved.

It was a special offer and from memory was £9.99. They were stacked up, one inside the other and wrapped in cardboard. I pointed and said I wanted one. A man took my money and said, "Help yourself, mate." These were pre-barcode scanning days. I gave him an appreciative nod as I exited the store with my purchase. I put the sink in the back of the car and drove home.

I left it in the car for a day or so until I needed it. On lifting it out, I'd only gone and picked up two by mistake and no one had noticed, least of all me.

I wrestled with my conscience. My heart said take it back, my head said I couldn't be bothered. So, I kept it. A plumber friend came to install the sink and reasoned my purchase of a spare one was because I thought he was likely to damage the other.

I explained my innocent mistake. He laughed and offered me a fiver for the extra one, which I took.

Can you feel my shame!


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