Bad At Loss Prevention AND Customer Retention

, , , , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

To avoid characterization as you read this, keep in mind that I’m a very fair-skinned, middle-aged Caucasian female. A few years ago, I stopped to buy a few groceries at an “everything under one roof” discount store. As was my usual routine, I took a cart, tossed my reusable bags into the child seat, and took off my jacket and put it in the bottom, under the seat and partially covering my purse.

After getting the groceries I needed, I headed toward the checkouts, saw a rack of clearance jackets, and stopped a moment to look. There was one in my size I liked, and the price was right, so I put that in the cart, also.

During checkout, I reached under my old jacket and took my wallet from my purse, then returned it after paying and dropped the receipt into one of the bags as I pushed my cart away from the registers. I stopped just outside the exit, dug a pair of nail clippers from my purse and the new jacket from the bag the cashier had shoved it into, and started to clip the tags off, intending to put it on.

Then, I heard a loud voice behind me. “Excuse me, ma’am. You need to come with me!” 

I stopped mid-clip and turned to see what was going on.

“You need to come with me!” reiterated a young man wearing a store badge, reaching forward and grabbing the handle of the shopping cart.

Taken by surprise, I stammered, “What? Why!”

“You didn’t pay for that jacket,” he said, pointing to my old one, “and whatever else you have stashed under it. Come with me!” Of course, people stopped to watch, but what could I do? He was taking the cart with my purse and purchases and heading back into the store, so I followed, my protests in vain.

In this store, there’s a room off of the entrance/exit vestibule that’s used by store security and is also a “police substation,” and that’s where he led me, me still carrying the new jacket and nail clippers with him pushing the cart.

He used a key to open the door, pushed the cart in, motioned for me to enter, followed me in, and closed the door behind us. Inside was a large metal cabinet partly filled with electronics with a monitor on top with nothing playing, a small bookcase stacked with books, binders, and assorted papers, and another, locking cabinet with some boxes on top. (It’s interesting what we remember in stressful situations; I couldn’t tell you if there was a window or not.) There was also a long table, several chairs, and an older man — a policeman — sitting on one side doing paperwork.

“Whatcha’ got?” He asked the young man.

“A shoplifter,” he replied.

By that point, I was not only embarrassed but livid as h*** and starting to cry. “I haven’t stolen anything! My receipt’s in that bag!” I pointed. “The jacket in the cart is mine, I wore it into the store, and the only thing under it is my purse!” I half yelled, half blubbered.

“Sit down,” said the young man. “I saw you trying to leave without paying for that coat. I have no idea what all you’ve got hidden under it, but you didn’t pay for any of that, either!” I didn’t sit; I was too mad.

The police officer stood up and walked around the table. “Mind if I have a look?”

“Yes! I mean, no, please do, I didn’t steal anything!” I insisted.

He took the receipt out of the bag, also lifting a few grocery items out and comparing them to the receipt and put them back in the bags. “Is that the jacket on the receipt?” he asked, gesturing toward the one I was by then hugging.

“Yeah, it is.”

He picked up my old ratty jacket, faded, stained, frayed, torn pocket, broken zipper. “Is this the one she didn’t pay for?” he asked the young man, one eyebrow raised.

“Uh, yeah,” the young man answered.

Holding my obviously not new jacket aside, the policeman looked back into the cart. Two bags filled with groceries, two empty bags, and my purse, zipper open, concealing nothing; surprise! 

“I’m so sorry, ma’am. Take a moment to compose yourself, and you’re free to go when you’re ready.” The young man was led to the far end of the table and some pretty intense whispering ensued, the policeman poking at the other’s chest, the young man gesturing wildly in the general direction of me and the door.

I dropped the clippers in my purse, threw the new jacket on top of the bags in the cart, and tried to let myself out, but the door was still locked. The policeman, seeing me jiggling the knob and leaning on the door in frustration, ran to unlock it, telling the young man, “Sit down, we need to talk.”

I never did wear the new jacket and I wouldn’t go back to the store to return it; several months later it was donated to a coat drive. The old one was eventually replaced with a purchase from a different store and discarded. The store is still there and I have been back, but only after a long time and never by myself.

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