Flaw with Foodstuffs facial recognition

It has been revealed that Foodstuffs supermarkets are using facial recognition to try to recognise shoplifters after a Dunedin man was incorrectly identified. Foodstuffs claims this was ‘human error’ .

ODT: Foodstuffs using facial recognition

Inquiries about a Dunedin man mistakenly identified as a shoplifter at New World have led to the revelation that New Zealand’s largest supermarket company  has quietly rolled out facial recognition CCTV technology in some of its North Island stores.

The man was allegedly mistakenly identified due to human error, and Foodstuffs NZ claimed facial recognition was not used in the South Island. However, the Otago Daily Times can reveal a different security system that “bridges the gap between businesses and the police” is now used at the Centre City New World in Dunedin, among other South Island stores.

Dunedin mechanic Daniel Ryan said he was recently taken aside by staff shortly after entering the Centre City New World in Great King St, owned by Foodstuffs. He alleged he was taken into a side room and questioned by staff, who said he had been identified as a known shoplifter.

Mr Ryan said the staff then realised he had been mis-identified and he received an apology from the company. While he appreciated the apology, the experience left him feeling humiliated.

“It’s quite bruising to be shuffled off to the side.”

This is disgraceful.

Foodstuffs head of external relations Antoinette Laird said “human error” had led to Mr Ryan being mistakenly identified as a shoplifter. Asked if Centre City New World was using a facial recognition surveillance system, Ms Laird said the technology was used in some of its stores, but none in Dunedin.

“A handful of stores in the North Island have facial recognition CCTV technology as part of their security system.

“We cannot provide specific store detail.”

Facial recognition technology is widely used by retailers overseas.

Supermarkets already have the ability to profile shoppers via the use of ‘loyalty’ cards. What next? In store promotions targeting face recognised shoppers?

That would be insidious, but nowhere near as bad as incorrectly identifying someone and falsely accusing them of being a shop lifter.

Whether New World in Dunedin use face recognition ‘security’ or not this incident raises an alarming issue.

I sometimes shop at Centre City New World. I will think carefully about whether I want to be observed in this way while shopping.


ID required for zero alcohol products

Both Countdown and Foodstuffs say they restrict sales of zero alcohol drinks to those 18 years of old and over, and Countdown at least require ID to sell some no alcohol products.

This is ridiculous. Supermarkets should make it as easy as possible to buy alcohol-alternative drinks.

Common sense seems to have been hijacked by supermarket stupidity and bureaucracy.

Stuff reported Customers fuming as supermarkets demand age ID to sell zero alcohol beer:

It looks like beer, it’s brewed like beer, but it has no alcohol – so should you need ID to buy it?

Auckland resident Ben Roberts doesn’t think so, and was annoyed when  he and his wife were denied by Countdown Lynfield.

Roberts, 22, had ID but his wife Sarah, 31, did not and the couple were told that although DB Export Citrus was alcohol-free, it was still treated as an alcoholic beverage.

The product has zero per cent alcohol but the packaging is similar to that of normal DB Export beer, and the supermarket displays it next to the usual beer range.

Countdown sell it alongside alcoholic drinks and therefore have included it in the alcoholic drink category so require ID to sell it if they are unsure whether a purchaser is old enough to buy alcohol.

This is stupid.

Bundaberg citrus and fruit drinks are brewed, but they are on soft drink shelves so I presume can be purchased without ID.

A number of brewed no alcohol ginger beers are also sold as soft drinks, presumably to people who are under 18 or don’t have ID. They are also sold as soft drinks.

Ginger beer with alcohol is sold in the alcoholic section of the supermarket so should be age restricted.

But applying age restrictions just because a supermarket decides to stock them alongside alcoholic drinks seems ridiculous.

Countdown spokesman James Walker said zero per cent alcohol was a substitute for alcohol and the company’s policy was to treat it as such.

“These products are a fast-growing category, as our 18+ customers look for low or no-alcohol alternatives.

“It’s Countdown’s policy that zero per cent and low products should be treated like the rest of our beer and wine products and sold responsibly.”

Foodstuffs New Zealand, which owns the Pak ‘n Save and New World brands, also confirmed  it would not sell the product to customers under 18.


DB senior communications adviser Simon Smith said Export Citrus zero per cent was designed for, and targeted at, legal drinkers.

“As such, we support retail partners who require ID from customers to prove the purchaser is over 18 if they believe that is appropriate.”

It sounds like DB wants Export Citrus sold alongside beers and ciders so has to go along with supermarket categorisation regarding ID requirements.

Last month brewers voiced their concern that under current legislation, beer with alcohol levels of 1.15 per cent must be kept separate from more potent drinks, which have to be displayed within a designated area.

That contradicts what the supermarkets are doing.

But supermarkets were also reluctant to display no-alcohol beers next to soft drinks and juice, because of the packaging.

That doesn’t make sense.

Justice Minister Amy Adams admitted there was a problem, and announced the  regulations would soon be amended.

“It doesn’t make sense that supermarkets technically cannot place these non-alcoholic products alongside alcohol when we’re trying to promote responsible drinking.

“It’s also irritating for supermarkets and confusing for customers.”

It certainly seems confusing and irritating for customers, but why the hell are regulation changes required?

Common sense has been hijacked by bureaucracy.