What is the purpose of these mirrors behind the customer, about waist-level, in checkout lanes?
July 20, 2009 12:25 PM   Subscribe

What is the purpose of these mirrors behind the customer, about waist-level, in checkout lanes? They seem to be set up so that the cashier can get a good look at my butt - which I doubt is their true purpose.

I've noticed that in two completely separate stores, there are large mirrors facing the cashier behind the customer, about waist-level or below. These are on every checkout lane, so there has to be a good reason for it (it costs money to put these up and replace them). I asked the cashier about them and she had no idea what these were for. I can't imagine what view they're supposed to give the cashier.

Is it possible they're for security? Both stores I noticed these are in slightly-bad neighborhoods, the ones where security guards stand around near the exit.
posted by meowzilla to Shopping (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's so they can see the underside of your cart - whether you're smugglin' soda or charcoal.
posted by notsnot at 12:27 PM on July 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

I've never seen this, but it could be a safeguard against armed robbery (if a would-be robber goes to grab a gun or knife tucked into the back of his pants, the cashier can see what he's going for).
posted by oinopaponton at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2009

One of my delinquent friends once introduced me to the practice of "left-handing." You go through the check-out with a cheap item and do everything with your right hand, the whole time holding something in your left hand below the line of sight of the cashier. Security assumes that if you're going through the line, you're not stealing anything. I was skeptical until we left a store one day and he had left-handed some expensive cheese. (I yelled at him a little bit.)

That's my guess, then.
posted by lauranesson at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Definitely security. With the narrow checkout aisles it's almost impossible for the cashiers to see if you've got something - bag of dog food, case of infant formula, other suitably high-priced odd sized items people stash in the underside of grocery carts - that you've "forgotten about". It's a very basic, very old shoplifting technique, because the thief can claim innocence as it appears to be a simple oversight rather than a theft if they get it out to the parking lot. Some companies even have a shorthand term - "Bob", or bottom of buggy - they use to reference it. So if one cashier asks another if they've seen "Bob" lately, it's supposed to be a reminder to check the mirror. I've even seen some stores use small video cameras feeding a window on their checkout screens instead of mirrors to do the same thing.

Not surprising that the cashier you asked hadn't heard of it... companies are very good at coming up with security practices like this but very lax at training their staff to do the actual work for minimum wage.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:35 PM on July 20, 2009

It's so they can see the underside of your cart - whether you're smugglin' soda or charcoal.

Exactly. There is rack under the cart for bigger items. Bags of dog food, cases of beverages, etc. It's so the cashier can check that area. Obviously so no one tries to steal, but also, it's not hard for even an honest customer (like me) to forget there's something undeath the cart.
posted by The Deej at 12:36 PM on July 20, 2009

(I should add I worked on a security training video for a large supermarket chain, and learned a ton of these techniques. Talking to head of security of a big corporation is a great source of fascinating stories.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "check BOB" answer. A grad school classmate was known to routinely put his beer below the cart and "forget" that it was there. He got away with it surprisingly often. It was a pretty crummy move.
posted by AgentRocket at 1:14 PM on July 20, 2009

Nthing bottom of cart. Used to cashier at Target. As far as I know I never had anyone walk out with stuff, but that's probably because I always said "I'll scan your sodas for you first, just give me one of each."
posted by Precision at 1:58 PM on July 20, 2009

Interestingly, the last time I went for groceries the bagger came up and grabbed the heavy stuff out from under my cart, ran it through the scanner and then packed it... nice way to prevent "inadvertent" theft plus reads as a courtesy move (nice boy carries awkward heavy thing so you and the cashier don't have to). I was impressed.
posted by Billegible at 2:31 PM on July 20, 2009

Note about the cart bottom: it's not always intentional if someone doesn't bring it up--I've forgotten about stuff I've put there, especially if I'm watching the register to make sure that things on sale ring up with the sales price. (Of course, if I catch it, I've always come back with the stuff...)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:48 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: Definitely BOB!

There are actually a few other ways that grocers deal with BOB loss. If you have ever seen one of these things, it is doing the same approximate thing. BOB loss is apparently a pretty big component of grocery shrink.
posted by milqman at 3:06 PM on July 20, 2009

Response by poster: Whoa, looks like everyone knew this one. Except for Google. Thanks everyone!
posted by meowzilla at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2009

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