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QFC’s new self-checkout cameras may send you back to human checkouts

(MyNorthwest photo)

It seems as though QFC got a nice birthday check from its grandmother recently and spent all the money at Best Buy, grabbing themselves hundreds of fancy security cameras, all of which are pointed right at customers.

Walking into their grocery store these days makes you feel like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. A virtual flora of screens with the words “Recording in Progress” populate every corner of the store, filming customers and their little baskets from angles they didn’t know existed. The Bellagio is more subtle with their security.

One screen will show you walking in the beer aisle from 10 feet away, and then another leaving the beer aisle, looking back at yourself to see how big your bum is. The most striking of these are at the self-checkouts, because they’re pointed directly at your face, and display it right back during those very non-photogenic times when customers are negotiating the delicate process of scanning items.

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QFC has just about had it with people absconding with their food. Last year, customers noticed that numerous QFCs changed their hours from 24/7 to closing between 1-5 a.m, and were informed by employees that it was a response to thefts and drug activity in the area. Now this futuristic security is at 12 QFCs in Washington.

“The updated camera technology found at several of our QFC locations functions no differently than the existing security cameras already in use at all of our stores,” a QFC spokesperson tells MyNorthwest. “They are simply an evolution of our current and existing strategy.”

Security cameras at grocery stores are certainly nothing new, but when it seems like there are as many screens as customers and it’s right in your face, it feels a bit different.

There’s a screen at the entrance, and a few in nearly every single aisle, even along the meat section. And of course the most prized items in any grocery store — alcohol and razor blades — have multiple cameras hovering right above them.

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With so many screens, it’s better to note where they’re not. There seem to be none in the cereal or chip aisle, probably because it’s hard to fit a giant box of Cheerios under your coat. There are no cameras located inside the frozen food freezers or attached to your shopping carts and baskets.

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Do you know how you open an egg carton to see if the eggs are intact? There are no cameras in there, either. And they’re not inside the candy bins or submersed in the hot soup.

With the self-checkout cameras, QFC may inadvertently be saving the jobs of the human checkers, where there are no security screens pointed at customers. Few people like seeing the expression on their face while buying junk food that embarrasses them.

To avoid having your soul captured by these, you could wear a hat and sunglasses, move back and forth quickly like an idiot, or somehow reprogram the cameras to feature a fake static shot, like Keanu Reeves did on the bus in Speed.

In any case, it remains to be seen if having as many cameras as a red carpet impacts customer shopping habits. It will certainly cut down on stealing. I’m too scared to even sample a grape.

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