There was an interesting sight inside the Harris Teeter on Lawndale Drive in Greensboro recently, one that many customers hadn’t seen before: A long traffic jam of shoppers with shopping carts waiting to exit the store.

 It wasn’t caused by a very slow store patron taking too much time to leave – instead, the line was the result of a new electronic surveillance system built into a special wheel of each shopping cart.

In part due to rising food prices, Harris Teeters in Greensboro and Guilford County – along with other Harris Teeters in other parts of the country – have been seeing rampant theft like never before.

 One method used by thieves is to get a shopping cart, load it up with food and other desired items and then just head out of the store without ever going through either a checkout lane or using the self-checkout. They simply fill the cart and leave without paying.

Now those who do so will cause a loud alarm beep when the wheel of a cart being pushed by someone suspected of not paying crosses an electronic line embedded in the floor of the exit area.

Also, now there are often one or two employees at the door working security to deal with those who set the alarm off.

As with any new theft detection system, often a false positive sets off the alarm, which can cause backups while Harris Teeter security workers assess the situation.

An employee working the door explained how the system works to the Rhino Times. He said that an electronic device in one wheel of each shopping cart tracks the amount of time that the cart is in the checkout area.  If that time has been too short, or if it is non-existent, then the security system alerts staff that it may be someone who has filled a cart and is exiting the store without paying.

The employee stated that it was his understanding that all local Harris Teeter stores had either gotten the new security systems or were in the process of getting them.

Reports from around the country note there has been an explosion in theft and shoplifting at grocery stores in general, including Harris Teeters. While some stores instruct employees not to intervene, the problem has apparently become so bad that many stores are now taking action.

At some Harris Teeters in the North Eastern US, staff has started checking the receipts of customers leaving the store.  In other Harris Teeters, two armed guards are being placed at the exits.

Other Greensboro stores have been using on and off again shoplifting prevention methods.  For a while last year, the Walgreens at 300 E. Cornwallis Dr. greeted shoppers with a sign that stated, “Attention. We will NOT be able to allow ANY large purses or bags in the store at this time.”  The sign also apologized for the inconvenience.

Once inside the store, shoppers noticed that the store had removed the shopping carts and hand-held baskets in an effort to prevent thieves from using those to shoplift.

Back then, a Walgreens employee said the step was just one more prevention method implemented at that store and noted that that particular measure may not be practiced at other Greensboro Walgreens since the other locations in the city aren’t open all night long like that one is.

And, of course, many drug stores and other stores now place high-priced items in locked cases.

In one notable incident, in September of 2021, a man – now known as the “Body Wash Bandit” – entered the Walgreens on East Cornwallis with a large tote bag, walked straight to the personal hygiene section in the back, and stuffed the bag full of body wash and related products.

According to some internet sites devoted to combating shoplifting, personal hygiene items have a relatively high resale value at flea markets and other places where those ill-gotten items are often sold.