Many years back, we had a lovely mall store with these tall, narrow glass showcases inset into the walls. In the glass-fronted mall aisle, there was a stand inside that we would put our best items on, and there was a 2′ wide, 10′ tall glass door on the backside. We kept these scrupulously clean, as any respectable business would do.
So, this rather large lady brings up a very nice comforter set up to the counter. She said it didn’t have a ticket on it, but according to her “they were all the same price back there” and handed the cashier a 2nd, $40 comforter set to scan the price from. The cashier wasn’t new or dumb, so she didn’t fall for it, and she called for a price check, and started ringing up some of the other stuff the large lady had bought…
As a department manager, I have moved around a lot. I worked out in the suburbs around London mostly, but I was appointed to head a department in East London after a couple of years at Old Kent Road. Most people know that as the first stop on the Monopoly board. You know, the cheap brown one you can build a hotel on without breaking bank. Going there for my first shift, I saw why it was so cheap to build a hotel. Not the prettiest part of London, not by any stretch. Monopoly knew that. I walked around on my first shift familiarising myself with the store…
I worked on a delicatessen counter. Some customers had this weird habit of eating what they had just ordered at the counter. One family really took this to the extreme though. Every saturday morning, a big heavy guy with a ponytail, his petite wife and their two terrible, loud kids would rock up to the counters and ask for some slices of turkey. The minute they got hold of the wrapped bag of turkey I prepared for them, they ripped it open being vaguely careful not to rip the barcode on the sticker, and started noshing on it, tossing some to their kids and making appreciative noises and grunts.
I’ll never forget this experience, neither will you. So turn back now if you’d rather not know! I was working the late shift and had about an hour to go before the end of my shift. So I decided to sit in the toilet cubicle playing games on my phone for a half-hour or so. The great thing about working in a large store is that you can get away with this quite easily by claiming you were working out the back or something.
At Waitrose we had a middle aged couple who would come into the store 10 minutes before closing time looking for bargains. I’m sure you know the type, but these two were something else. They were certainly not amateurs, they were like something between apex predators and commodity traders (as they seemed to know the price of everything, and what discounts they could get), moving fast and quietly, scanning the shelves and counters for their prey.
Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all heard those 5 words put together in some form at one point in our retail lives. As if the loss of one customer (who always comes back) is going to completely disrupt the flow of the store’s overall income. The one customer who grabs a shopping cart but only puts 2-3 items in it every visit, the customer who finds something to complain about every visit yet still comes back, yeah that customer.
So let me start with a disclaimer first. I’m not a thief. OK, I did once take a Mars bar from Mr Jacob’s shop when I was 8, but I also did 2 years of backbreaking labour for him delivering newspapers when I was 14, so I think we’re even. My true story of stealing comes later in my twenties during the annual stocktake (inventory for any Americans out there). Store staff were responsible for counting any items in the stock rooms, then an army of contractors would come in and count the shop floor for us.