Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Security Technology

$1.5 Million Bar-code Scheme Bilks Wal-Mart Stores 618

Posted by samzenpus
from the your-total-is-one-dollar dept.
nomrniceguy writes "Two couples have been charged in a price-switching scheme that allegedly defrauded Wal-Mart stores in 19 states of $1.5 million over the last decade. Authorities said the scheme involved using a home computer to produce UPC bar codes for cheaper products and slipping them over the real codes on high-priced items. The suspects then allegedly sold the merchandise, or returned it for refunds or store gift cards that also were sold."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

$1.5 Million Bar-code Scheme Bilks Wal-Mart Stores

Comments Filter:
  • Doesn't add up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jardin (778043) * on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:00AM (#11226129)
    If they were rung up as lower priced items, then wouldn't it show the wrong items on the cash register/receipts? I don't understand how the cashiers didn't catch on. And how did they go about returning these items when the wrong items (and prices) were printed on the receipts?
    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:4, Insightful)

      by stickystyle (799509) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:02AM (#11226140) Homepage
      Have you been to a WalMart?
      The people that work there are not like in the commericals, they are just scaning you product, waiting till it's there chance to die.
      • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gordonjcp (186804)
        My girlfriend worked in a couple of supermarkets when she was a student. She checks every receipt carefully for mispriced or mis-scanned items. Apparently it's really easy to get ripped off by incorrect pricing, but no-one ever checks.


        Of course, she takes the piss out of me because I look at every receipt to check the print quality, but that's because I do tech support for most of the UK's supermarkets...

    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tmbg37 (694325) *
      The article said the the couple purchased items during busy periods, so probably the checkout clerk either didn't notice/didn't want to hold up the line. It's also likely that the employees just didn't care enough to make a fuss about it.
      • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eclectro (227083)
        It's also likely that the employees just didn't care enough to make a fuss about it.

        I don't think that it is a question of caring.

        You must remember that Walmart has a HUGE inventory and for all purposes impossible for any single checkout clerk to be aware of price fluctuations. Couple this with the fact that Walmart awards clerks who are very fast at checking out, and it is apparent that by time the thieves made it to the checkout line it was too late already.

        The article mentions that they were well tra
      • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It's also likely that the employees just didn't care enough to make a fuss about it.

        It actually has nothing to do with caring. I worked at a grocery store for quite a long time earlier this year, and store policy, it seems for most retail stores is not to do anything to interfere with a customer who is shoplifting, ripping you off, ect. Furthermore, the customer is always right rule still holds. The only time a lowly checker is supposed to even consider doing anything is if the manager instructs them
    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Insightful)

      by trevdak (797540)
      Having worked in a Wal-Mart for one summer, I can assure you that I not only didn't pay attention to the register display thing, but I would've welcomed some excitement of someone actually stealing from the store. Then again, for there to be any excitement I'd either have to be an accomplice or actually bust them. Hmmm.

      Worst job I've ever had.

      I never noticed anyone stealing so Wal Mart don't sue me when you read this.
      • by iocat (572367)
        One of the most ironic things that ever happened to me was at Walmat. I usually don't shop there but got bad service at Sears and left, but still needed a seriously cheap 13" TV. So I went to Wal-Mart, browsed for a while, bought one and left, only to be assaulted at the door by some Nazi who insisted she had to check my receipt to make sure I hadn't stolen anything. Very irritating. Then I got to the car, put the TV in the trunk, looked down and saw a small craft item that I had thrown in the cart on impul
        • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Informative)

          by eln (21727)
          Large items don't usually carry the little theft prevention devices that trigger the annoying "You have activated the Wal-Mart Inventory Control System" thing when you walk out, because they're too big to rub over that rubber thing by the register that deactivates the device. Thus, the only way to make sure you paid for it is for the door greeter to check your receipt. In short, the only time the greeter will ever do that is if you have a large piece of expensive equipment in your cart.
    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:5, Interesting)

      by petecarlson (457202) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:07AM (#11226166) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps they printed their own recipts with the right item and price. I did this once at best Buy when I needed a recipt for a cell phone that I had bought the stupid insurance for. The reciept had faded to the point where it was hardly legible. They told me it wasn't valid because they couldn't read it. I went home and printed a new recipt with a thermal printer and took it to another store where they replaced my phone.
      • I've used a scanner a few times to read old thermal-print movie stubs. It was surprising because the text was almost invisible. After a little playing with the levels in The GIMP, the text showed up pretty well. But I doubt your local supermarket employees would even know you can do that, let alone have the time to do it.

      • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:4, Insightful)

        by zakezuke (229119) on Friday December 31, 2004 @05:44AM (#11226465)
        Wal Mart is the king in data tracking. They are the people who know that pop tart sales go up after a hurricane. I would find it hard to believe that someone could forge a walmart reciept as each one has it's own unique code which is associated with the specific transaction. Even if it's just a stick of gum or some rolaids they keep track of it all. I would think it would be hard to forge.

        It makes me wonder why anyone would try to rip off walmart.
    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:2, Insightful)

      by robslimo (587196)
      Hmmm, I think I see a weakness in the 'self checkout' concept. How the heck do you prevent the UPC abuse there? I guess they will have to rely the old security cams to spot folks sticking labels on boxes.

      BTW, kudos to the submitter for providing a link to the light-weight (printable) version of the article.
      • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Informative)

        by mondaypickle (739774)
        Most of the self check-out things weigh things after u scan them to make sure its the right item, so this wouldnt work on self check-out machines
      • Wal-mart already knows how much each item weighs. The self-checkout machines require that you put the item "in the bagging area", which is basicly a big scale. A simple way around it is to use a barcode of something very cheap but around the same weight as the expensive item (like a bag of soil, catfood, etc, would weigh the same as a TV).
      • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jesdynf (42915)

        How the heck do you prevent the UPC abuse there?

        By not using UPCs -- Wal-Mart's pushing for RFID tags in all God's merchandise. That'd make self-checkout both faster and more difficult to defeat.

        Although... with a portable software RFID reader and tag broadcaster, and a soft canvas tote bag lined with copper mesh, you might be able to scam it after all.

        Yeah -- a Faraday cage with a reader on the inside and a multiple-channel transmitter on the other. (Hardwired together. I know.) Stick a recycle/globe l

    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BinaryOpty (736955) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:13AM (#11226185)
      The possible reasons why the cashiers probably didn't notice are: 1. they don't care enough to name-match things they're scanning, 2. they didn't speak/read english well enough to know the difference, 3. the couple selected objects that had multiple versions spanning a price range (like buying a 512MB flash card with the price of a 128MB one), and 4. they used self checkouts (once Wal-mart implemented them). If they did bilk Wal-mart out of 1.5 million, then I'd say at least one of the four above were true at some point in their spree.

      On the returns side, if they returned it for refunds sans reciept (like most stores will allow around Christmastime) then they could possibly do return them to make money.
    • Maybe they could return the items without a receipt for store credit (for the original price), then use the credit to buy back more of the same items (at their "special" discount). Keep this going and you could get all of the store's inventory for just the investment of the "discounted" first few items.

      Reminds me of that old David Letterman joke about Dan Quayle: Letterman suggested that one of the things a person should remember to do if ever to meet Mr. Quayle was to ask him for change of two tens for a
    • I dont think they were *that* stupid, especially if they did this for 10 years. What I'm guessing what they would do is find very similar items, that at a quick glance look the same, and slap their modified barcode on the more expensive item, and/or slap a higher price on the cheaper item. I mean I dont know about you but most cashiers just ring the stuff up, they dont analyze every single item they ring up. They just want to hear that *beeeeep*
      • Find a $100 TV and a $200 TV.

        Print the label for the $100 TV, stick it onto the $200TV. Buy the TV at Walmart A.

        Lose receipt.

        Remove fake label.

        Take TV to Walmart B. Refund for $200 (or $200 gift certificate).

        Go to Walmart C. Buy two $200 TV's for $100 each...
    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TrentC (11023) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:30AM (#11226236) Homepage
      I used to work at Fry's Electronics, and we had a pair of thieves who did this.

      They'd paste the UPC of a lower-priced item over the sticker of a higher-priced item of similar make (handhelds were good for this). Even if the checker was looking at the display, you might not catch the fact that the model numbers on the PDAs didn't match. The guys at the door didn't always catch it either.

      Basically, they took advantage of two things at my location: the fact that relabelling items that had price changes did not always happen 100% (the result being that sometimes an item scanned at a different price than was ont he sticker; and believe me, I handled plenty of customers who complained that the CD/DVD/software that said $19.99 on the sticker rang up at $29.99) and the fact that many items Fry's purchased were often bought at clearance or through a special arrangement, so oftentimes the items had custom stickers over the original barcode.

      So you have A) items that legitimately had UPC stickers on them, and B) items that scanned at different prices. It was a recipe for disaster; we only caught them when someone noticed them sticking a label on a product.

      Jay (=
    • I don't understand how the cashiers didn't catch on.

      The cashiers are part of the con - crook #1 goes to work at WalMart, and then crook B goes to A's register/checkout lane. Scan, pay small money, leave, rinse, repeat.

      And before you think you can do it too, this hole has already been plugged - think up your own scam.
    • You could pass a nuclear warhead across the scanner and have it come up as a ethernet card for $9.95 and most cashiers there would never notice.
    • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ErikZ (55491) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:39AM (#11226264)

      When you pay your workers as little as possible, they don't give a damn.

      • So one group made 1.5 million from switching UPCs. That's a drop in the ocean compared to Walmart's overall sales. Think of what it would cost to hire employees who cared, just to catch the rare occurrence of something like this. Totally a no brainer, you just keep doing what you're doing.
  • One would assume it would be pretty hard for your Joe Sixpack to go out and just print these things willy-nilly. How hard is it to make these things? TFA doesnt say anything, but were they using pre-existing UPCs and copying them, or is it relatively easy to forge/copy UPC codes to ones liking...

    Furthermore, Im suprised they werent caught earlier. Itd be pretty damn hard to get those past some sort of return. Hell, I took a DVD back to WalMart after Christmas and they wanted my drivers license number (
    • by stupidfoo (836212) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:10AM (#11226175)
      Are you new to computers?

      That weird box sitting on your desk is called a "printer". Some of these "printers" can even print "pictures".

      Now look at a UPC. It's made up of black lines (the numbers are just for show) which is about the easiest thing to print in the world. Now, look in your desk drawer for "Glue".

      I think you can figure it out from there. If not, this topic has been covered ad-nasuem in 2600 for about the past 10 years (or longer?). Hell, skip the computer. You can make them with a black pen if you're bored. I've done so and tested them out when I worked in retail. It's really not that tough.
    • by Frostalicious (657235) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:12AM (#11226181) Journal
      One would assume it would be pretty hard for your Joe Sixpack to go out and just print these things willy-nilly.

      All you need is a barcode printer and some software which are publicly available for a few hundred dollars, like from these guys [idautomation.com]. Get a UPC number off a pack of chewing gum and put the sticker on a mountain bike. The hard part is finding a checker who won't notice. I can't figure out that one.
      • by cmallinson (538852) * <c&mallinson,ca> on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:28AM (#11226231) Homepage
        Get a UPC number off a pack of chewing gum and put the sticker on a mountain bike. The hard part is finding a checker who won't notice. I can't figure out that one.

        I think the cashier would notice you paying for the plasma TV with a $5 bill. That's what differentiates dumb criminals, and the ones you don't usually find out about. You don't swap the code from a $1 item with 1 $3000 item. You take the sticker off a 17 inch lcd, and put it on a 19 inch one. I wouldn't even put the sticker on there permanently. It just has to be the first sticker the cashier sees. Once it's scanned, get rid of the evidence. Walmart is the perfect place to do this. They sell everything, and pay their people nothing, so the cashier will likely not have a clue what you are doing.

      • You definately wouldn't make a good thief. I dont think they were *that* stupid, especially if they did this for 10 years. What I'm guessing what they would do is find very similar items, that at a quick glance look the same, and slap their modified barcode on the more expensive item, and/or slap a higher price on the cheaper item. I mean I dont know about you but most cashiers just ring the stuff up, they dont analyze every single item they ring up. They just want to hear that *beeeeep*
      • I'm guessing you find a high-end sony DVD player with all the latest options, and stick on bar code for the $89.99 DVD on special.
      • by H0NGK0NGPH00EY (210370) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:41AM (#11226274) Homepage
        It's even simpler than that. One summer about 8 years ago when I was in high school, I sat down and decoded the UPCs of a few products in an afternoon. Once you know what the codes are, it's trivial to draw your own bar codes using MS Paint. You can then print them off using any old ink-jet printer. Don't believe me? This [timandjeni.com] is the page that I wrote up after figuring it all out. I made the UPC graphics on that page using just Paint. I also printed off some test barcodes using the cheapo inkjet we had, and ran them by the "price checker" thingys in the local Target. They scanned no problem.

        I've wondered for years whether it would really be that easy to get away with switching UPCs just like this. I guess the answer is "pretty easy." Of course, if you get as greedy as these people did, you're obviously going to get caught before too long.
      • "All you need is a barcode printer "

        No barcode printer necessary. A regular run of the mill printer will print barcodes just fine. I did this a few years ago when I was archiving my media collection, some of the items didn't have a UPC printed on the case or media so I had to print my own. If I was able to print with an old canon bubbljet and read with a cheap (free actually) CueCat [wikipedia.org]
        then I'm sure they could do the same.

        "some software which are publicly available for a few hundred dollars"

        There are se
    • Yes, it's that simple. There are many programs to print UPC barcodes and many legit reasons to do so.

      Here's [labelmagic.net] one I've heard of.

      Many bargain hunters print up a page of dozens of bar codes for various items. When watching for a price drop, they can enjoy checking prices on the scanners in store without having to go pick up each product. As long as you have the numbers printed below the bar code you can generate the bars easily. Sometimes fellow bargain hunters post specific bar code numbers in forum mes
      • Since the information is being processed by a computer anyhow, can't they prevent fraud by encrypting the information represented by the barcode? That would prevent people from simply printing up their own tags. Of course, they could look around the store for something with the price they want and copy that tag, but at least that would cost them an extra trip to the store. And this tactic could be dealt with by combining the price and product code information before encryption so that even if someone copie

    • It is very easy: http://search.cpan.org/~kwitknr/GD-Barcode-1.15/Ba rcode.pm [cpan.org]

      especially easy if you know Perl...

      It would be rediculously easy to take this, make it a CGI webpage, and publish it for the world to use.
    • TFA doesnt say anything, but were they using pre-existing UPCs and copying them, or is it relatively easy to forge/copy UPC codes to ones liking

      I've been meaning to research this issue. When I print off coupons from the store's website, the checkers get annoyed with the fact they don't scan [inserts2online.com]. I know I can print off barcodes, but I don't have the same style barcode as UPC uses, I have something called 3 of 9 [state.mn.us]. The last time I looked into it software and fonts for anything like UPC required a massive licen
  • by Zorilla (791636)
    I think these guys were watching too many Saturday Night Live faux commercials.

    Oh, well. At least they weren't selling Bass-O-Matic '76s on the internet.
  • Now with all the contreversy will they be safe once it all runs on RFID?

    Or will we all be able to do the same just from outside the store ??
  • by FuturePastNow (836765) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:11AM (#11226179)
    returned it for refunds or store gift cards that also were sold

    That's how they got caught. This was actually a fairly original idea; if they'd used it very sparingly, and only kept the items for themselves, they most likely would never have been caught at it. Most criminals' undoing is in not knowing when to stop.
  • Use similar items (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jamesbulman (103594)
    This works if you put new barcodes on for similar (but cheaper) items. For example, stick the barcode for a Sony ultra-cheapo DVD player on a Sony top-of-the-range DVD player. No checkout assistant is going to notice/care.
  • done in by greed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:14AM (#11226188) Homepage Journal
    it's hard to stop using a drug, from quitting a winning streak at the casino, from selling a rising stock, or from successfully bilking walmart of over hundreds of thousands of dollars over the span of a decade

    the greatest enemy to a criminal or anybody on a power trip is himself
  • kid's play (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thetzar (30126) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:16AM (#11226196) Homepage
    I did this when I was about 8 years old; swapped the price tag for one thing that I could afford (that was like $1) over another which I wanted (which was like $5). The sales drone didn't notice, but the guilt was enough to keep me from doing it again.

    Fancier bells and whistles, but this is the same thing. It'll be interesting to see how they pulled off bilking one of the defining features of UPC codes which I didn't have to deal with: When scanned, the register should display a description of the product. The answer was probably lazy/unmotivated register drones. Some things never change.
  • Bebeep! (Score:5, Funny)

    by trs9000 (73898) <trs9000@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:17AM (#11226200)
    what kind of television is this? Bebeep! oh oh its a... toaster....? huh... oh man is that a ten-speed? Bebeep!... no.. huh... tricycle... Oh.... alright a Lindows machine!!.... Bebeep!... n-no?.... i see... 5 gallon jar of pickles....
  • by cdf12345 (412812) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:20AM (#11226208) Homepage Journal
    I saw the guys who did Re-code.com at 2600's 5th hope this summer in NYC. Basically you could create a barcode for any item, and print them.

    Finally they closed down because of pressure from walmart and huge legal fees needed to fight them.

    But they got their point across, so I could see someone doing this quite easily. Now I'm wondering how they got caught.

    I think the best thing to do it go to a walmart and just sticker random items, so that random people are buying the altered items.

    There's a 10 min video on Re-code.com about the case. It's worth a quick viewing.
    Seems like a way to say "I didnt put the sticker there!"
  • by turtlboy (845018) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:22AM (#11226214)
    I worked at a Wal-Mart for a while as a cashier. Our store had 4 self-checkout machines where you ring up the items yourself. One cashier was assigned to "Paystation" where people could pay with checks, and other assorted stuff the machines couldn't handle. When working at the Paystation, you were given a barcode card which when scanned would bring up an admin-like menu with price override options and other assorted "cashier" tasks. At one point, I scanned that barcode at my register, printed a receipt to show the number it represented, took that home and recreated it on my computer and printed a new version. I taped it on the back of my name tag, and it worked like a charm. Here's the scary thing: Cash Office also used a barcode for those machines to refund money, etc. They could literally empty the machine of cash with their card. If one took a picture of their card (which usually was worn around the neck in plain sight), it wouldn't be hard to recreate the bar code without knowing the numbers. Talk about fraud potential... I almost wanted to do it as a proof-of-concept, but thought that just being caught with the barcode would get me in big trouble, so I didn't end up trying.
    • The Self-Checkout system has always struck me as a bit abusable. One thing I've always noticed at my local check-out station is the ability to cancel a purchase midway through - of course it requires the approval of the cashier at the machine, but they usually don't give a damn. Maybe I'm ignorant, but if you cancel the purchase after scanning half of your items, what are you left with? Are the items technically "purchased", or is there some kind of de-activation scheme on those items I'm not aware of?
      • if you remember, slashdot poswted a link to an article that tlaked about rfid.
        The jist of it was people didn't like it, so they came up with a plan to bet consumers used to it.
        Enter self checkout.
        The ones I use want to press my items against a yellow strip after I scan them. I don't.

        If there damn infernal machine starts making noise, I don't stop on the way ot, either.
        I am not a thief, and I will not prove my innocents.
        I will defend it, however.
  • ... to use RFID!!!

    (Man I hope people are in good humor today.)
  • by Homer's Donuts (838704) on Friday December 31, 2004 @04:34AM (#11226249)
    Reminds me of the stories in the early 70's of people changing their utility bills. Bills came printed on punch (IBM, Hollerith) cards. [wikipedia.org]

    "Enterprising" students would run them thru keypunch machines [wikipedia.org] and make the number negative or add a decimal point.

    These machines are also the origin of the "hanging chad". [wikipedia.org] Always check your input. Like the state of Florida, Walmart could have caught this by auditing returns.

  • Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Friday December 31, 2004 @05:51AM (#11226482)
    $1.5m over 10 years between 4 people=$37500 a year. Call it 80% of that, $30000, as stolen goods never retail for full value, and you have to wonder why they bothered, given that this must have been close to a full time occupation. They'd have done much better to sell the means rather than the goods.
  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday December 31, 2004 @06:04AM (#11226521) Homepage
    1) install debian
    2) install a thermal label printer (the dymo 310 is nice)
    3) install pbm2wxl if using dym310 (use google to locate)
    4) type "apt-get install barcode"
    5) run echo thebarcodenumber | barcode | lpr -Pdym310
    6) when the local law enforcement agencies come knocking on your door claiming that the GNU barcode program is illegal and subversive software, RUN LIKE HELL!
  • by Basje (26968) <bas@bloemsaat.org> on Friday December 31, 2004 @06:15AM (#11226554) Homepage
    The pricing on the goods can be constituted as an offer. On accepting the offer, a contract is entered. The new pricing (bar code) can be viewed as a counter-offer. If the cashier accepts, the counter-offer is accepted and a contract is entered, making it a legal sale.

    Of course, ethically it is wrong, but legally, it's not done yet.
    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@[ ].com ['mac' in gap]> on Friday December 31, 2004 @06:57AM (#11226646) Journal
      The new pricing (bar code) can be viewed as a counter-offer. If the cashier accepts, the counter-offer is accepted and a contract is entered, making it a legal sale.

      Clever argument, but the chances of a court going along with it are about the same as the proverbial snowball's chance in hell.

      -jcr

    • Except there is no legal representative of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. at the time of sale. The cashier is a customer service representative that is aiding you at the time of sale with the computer transaction. The offer of sale is made at the shelf and by completing the transaction at the point-of-sale you are accepting the offer of sale and completing the terms of the contract. At no time can you negotiate the sale unless you approach a Customer Service Manager, in which case you lose any sort of advantage s
    • by raehl (609729)
      Wal-Mart says that if I present an item to the cashier, and I have done something so that the price scans lower than the posted price, I'm guilty of stealing from wal-mart....

      Then if I present an item to the cashier, and it scans a price higher than the posted price, is Wal-Mart guilty of stealing from me?

      Doesn't seem like they should be able to have it both ways. How is swapping bar codes to get a lower price any different than "accidentally" entering a higher price for a particular barcode into the dat
      • How is swapping bar codes to get a lower price any different than "accidentally" entering a higher price for a particular barcode into the database?

        Aristotle described the core of the distinction long ago: intention. If you as a customer swap barcodes in a store your goal is clearly (usually) to sneak a higher price item for a lower price. You are misrepresenting the transaction to get take advantage of someone/thing else. If some retailer makes an error in pricing they are not necessarily intentionall
    • by Nurgled (63197) on Friday December 31, 2004 @08:26AM (#11226942)

      By replacing the barcode, you are not saying "I will pay $5 for this microwave oven", you are saying "This microwave oven is a bottle of soda".

      I suppose the same argument could apply -- the customer service representative agrees that the oven is a bottle of soda -- but you can't argue that you are offering a lower price for the item because barcodes identify what an item is and not how much an item costs.

      • By replacing the barcode, you are not saying "I will pay $5 for this microwave oven", you are saying "This microwave oven is a bottle of soda".

        A smart [read: not greedy] thief would do their homework first and put an $80 microwave barcode on a $120 microwave model. The text that displays would be very brief, displaying Microwave Oven or something similar, and would not trigger suspicion with an attentive cashier.

        Social observation shows that this type of self-restraint is rarely found among criminals.

    • by dk.r*nger (460754) on Friday December 31, 2004 @09:50AM (#11227246)
      The pricing on the goods can be constituted as an offer. On accepting the offer, a contract is entered. The new pricing (bar code) can be viewed as a counter-offer. If the cashier accepts, the counter-offer is accepted and a contract is entered, making it a legal sale.

      No. A barcode isn't just a price, but a code representing an item, which in the cashregister is linked to a price.

      If you put the barcode from a pack of chewinggum on a mountainbike, the barcode still represents the offering of gum at $0.77, and that is the offer the contract is concerning. The fact that you are carrying a $300 bike out of the store is just theft.
  • by Geburah (610977) on Friday December 31, 2004 @06:16AM (#11226556)
    A handful of years back, in a time when my morals weren't exactly as defined as they are now, (heh) I really wanted the brand spankin new "Super Smash Bros." for Super Nintendo. Problem was, I was fresh outta coppers. Yep. Not a dime to my name. So I 'borrowed' my dad's credit card, (who I share the same name with. Rock.) and headed on down to Kmart and bought the game.

    Obviously all this hard work of buying video games would make anybody hungry, so I went to silence my grumbling belly meats by making a stop to the Burger King. After ordering my food and taking a seat, I began to unwrap my new Super Smash Bros video game over an 8-piece chicken tender value meal.

    It is here where the clouds parted, and God himself reached down and touched me. It is here, that I calculated and measured the exact balance and weight of the Super Smash Bros cartridge in comparison to the equal amount of ketchup packets.

    I took the packets and placed them neatly back in the cardboard game housing, packaging everything back up. I took the instruction manual as well, and replaced that with a good 7 or 8 napkins, folded rather nicely. Then, I went next store to Office Max, and had them shrink-wrap the game. Viola. Slap on one of them sticky-hangy-tab thingies, and you got yourself a game fresh off the shelf from behind those locked glass windows.

    So, now the scary part. Time to find a differant Kmart. Sweaty and horribly nervous looking, I went inside to make the return. I claimed something to the tune of it being my birthday and that I had already owned this gift, so I wanted to return it. Everything went surprisingly smooth, except for the camera staring at my face. I still wont go back there to this day. :)

    Now - Think about the possible following scenario for just a moment. Imagine - Your in your early teens, and you did your chores. It was a nice sunny weekend afternoon, and your dad felt like doing somethin nice for you. He remembers you going off about that new game. He buys it, brings it home to surpise you... your so excited! You guys have one of those rare but really heart felt father and son kinda hugs. Life, is perfect...

    You open the box to your new game. In it, you find a small brick of ketchup packets and neatly folded napkins.

    Sweet Jesus, I would give my first newborn child to a rabbid tiger just to see that facial expression.

    PS: I used to work at Office Max. One day, a guy came back in after just buying a typewriter. Instead of a typewriter, he found a bag of potting soil. He was irate - I smiled. =)

    • The Decay of Trust (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hburch (98908)
      Which gets us to the meta-hack: take the typewriter box back to OfficeMax with a bag of potting soil, and complain that the soil was in the box.

      The return system would not be difficult to game at small scales, if you were untrustworthy. It's unfortunate, but true. The truly unfortunate fact is that a small set of people can game the system so much that companies are disuaded from offering returns, except as required by law, and making them as painful as possible. This has already happened, to a large ex

    • Sweet Jesus, I would give my first newborn child to a rabbid tiger just to see that facial expression.

      LOL! I bet it was like my brother's when he found no toy in his Kinder egg.

      Why was there no toy in his Kinder egg? Because I got home from school before him, carefully opened the foil, cut the chocolate shell along the seams with a sharp knife and removed the toy. A simple matter of soldering the chocolate back together with hot tea and replacing the foil and voila - one kid roaring his eyes out.

  • by switzer (244132) <scott@switzer.org> on Friday December 31, 2004 @07:06AM (#11226685)
    This method is used to obtain competitive pricing all the time. For example, if Half Life 2 is going on sale at the beginning of the month, and Joe Retailer wants to know how much his competitors are going to charge:

    Just print off the UPC code onto a sticker, and go into a competitor (like Walmart) a week before it goes on sale. Put the sticker onto another game, and ask the cashier for a price check. The scanner computer already has the pricing information in it, so the price that they are going to charge shows up on the register!

    • You probably don't even have to get an employee involved, since a lot of larger stores (Target for instance) have barcode scanners set out specifically for the customers to do their own price checks.

      Print off a list of all the products you want to check, and take care of it in one trip.

  • Old News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by salesgeek (263995) on Friday December 31, 2004 @07:35AM (#11226773) Homepage
    Back in the day to do this you needed Corel Draw (it had a neat little tool called the Corel BarCode) and a decent 24 pin dot matrix printer with a fresh ribbon and a pack of labels.

  • Wondering aloud (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anon*127.0.0.1 (637224) <`moc.amrakduab' `ta' `todhsals'> on Friday December 31, 2004 @09:11AM (#11227086) Journal
    Does this explain Wal-Marts big hurry to get RFID on all their products? These people got caught because they got greedy, and involved someone not quite as clever as themselves. Not quite as clever person got caught and squealed. I assume that there are quite a few clever, not so greedy people who have homes very nicely furnished and extremely low prices from Wal-Mart.

    And where the hell did that 1.5 million come from? Did the crooks still have 1.5 million worth of stolen stuff in their home? Did the have a nice detailed spreadsheet of everything they'd ripped off since day one? Or did somebody at Wal-Mart just pull a number out of the air?

  • by Powercntrl (458442) on Friday December 31, 2004 @10:08AM (#11227351)
    A few months ago I was buying the parts to put together an entire irrigation system from Home Depot. Had the whole deal in two carts, one full of PVC fittings/heads/etc., the other full of pipes.

    The cashier just looked at the entire mess of items with disgust and ended up tossing every part into a bag regardless of whether or not it scanned on the first try. For what was supposed to be $300 - $350 in parts, I ended up paying around $180 for.

    If you don't pay your employees enough to care, you're gonna have losses. :-P
  • by YukiKotetsu (765119) on Friday December 31, 2004 @11:16AM (#11227738)
    At first, I was just disgusted at these people who decide to scam the system the best they can and for as much as they can. When I saw they'd be getting 8-whatever years for this, I felt a little better.

    Then I see people posting on tips how to do this more efficiently, how they have done it at Home Despot, Best Buy, and so on, and I wonder...

    Are these the same people that think downloading movies and music is just fine? How are you justifying this, since every thief I know has some way to justify it.

    They charge too much, therefore it is right of you to systematically lower the price via a UPC swap?

    You couldn't afford it, therefore it is right of you to systematically lower the price via a UPC swap?

    You wouldn't have bought it at such a high price, it is right of you to systematically lower the price via a UPC swap?

    So, by stealing an item for a lower price, you're driving up the price of the rest of their inventory. You can now justify their high prices by requiring them to set the prices higher to account for loss, the loss you have created. Nice job.

    Everyone has some kind of justification, I bet these criminals had some as well. They did not want to work, found the system easy to exploit, and wanted free money... what better reason is there really? Sure, they are "innocent until proven guilty" I suppose.

    I'm not sure if it's the lack of morals, or just the lack of brainpower that causes such things. Self-justification of stealing is still just stealing and it makes me sick.
    • by rusty0101 (565565) on Friday December 31, 2004 @03:01PM (#11229132) Homepage Journal
      I look at most of those posts and think of them in the same sense as posts on how to make a nuclear bomb. There are actually a lot of people who have access to a large percentage of the material as well as the technical knowledge and resources necesary to construct one. You or I may not have ready access to fisionable materials in the quantities and purety necessary, but even if you or I did, that would not make it at all likely that we would create a nuclear bomb.

      Do I have the resources to do UPC label creation and swaping. What I don't already have at home I can easily pick up at a local office max, or office Depot. Possibly even at the very stores mentioned in the article.

      I look at the responses earlier in the listing as "Idiots, if you are going to do this, you need to do it this way..."

      If I were to decide to use UPC relabling at Best Buy to get that great new 42" LCD HDTV, I would visit first, find a manufacture with both a 42" LCD HDTV, and a 35" LCD HDTV, write down the UPC for that 35" edition, go home print up an approprieate sized copy of that to overlay the UPC on the 42" edition, then during a busy time at Best Buy, go in, put the 42" set on a cart, go stand in line, and while waiting in line discreatly overlay the UPC.

      Now note I began that with 'If I were to decide..' I honestly have no interest in doing this. I may like the idea of having a 42" LCD HDTV, but I happen to have worked for the stuff I own, and I have no interest in changing that.

      I don't have a justification for such an action, as I have no interest in performing the action. That doesn't mean that I can't participate in the thought experiment, or write about what I know about the topic in question.

      -Rusty
    • Self-justification of stealing is still just stealing and it makes me sick.

      You see, there's this thing called the Social Contract. It isn't written anywhere, but we all ascribe to it, not because we want to, but because society would fall apart without it.

      Of course, we are not perfect, so we bend the Contract on occasion. People do it by shoplifting, or pilfering, or swapping barcode labels. Companies do it by outsourcing, or denying valid insurance claims, or bullying employees into voting against u

  • by cvd6262 (180823) on Friday December 31, 2004 @11:25AM (#11227793)
    When I worked at REI (Camping, climbing, etc, gear), we were always told to handle the merchandise ourselves. A customer once came to my register with a large internal frame backpack, and instead of handing it to me, he just pointed the pricetag at me. I grabbed the sac out of his hands and said, "Hmmm. This seems a little heavy." At which point I opened it and found a $110 rope. They guy was totally pale and muttered, "Huh. I wander how that got it there." I asked if he wanted to buy it and he said, "no," so I rang him up for the backpack and restocked the rope.

    More on topic, this was something that was part of the training. they taught us how to find fake pricetags, hidden items (carabiners in shoes, tents in backpacks, etc.), and a whole bunch of other tricky stuff. It goes to show that if you don't pay for good training up front, you'll pay for it later.

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

Working...