The Television Laundering Caper

Customer kept returning stolen TV's for a refund

I remember one particular day I was working Customer Services. It was an afternoon, I had been there for about an hour. A guy came in with a boxed TV he wanted to return, saying it was broken. Fair enough, he had the receipt, he went and got another one, and I did an exchange, marking the television he brought back as faulty.

When I went to log the TV on the system, I looked for the fault… and I noticed the box hadn’t been opened. I don’t mean they had opened it and resealed it. I mean the seal was still intact. I was still obliged to report it as broken, did so, and thought I’d dealt with a weird person.

In the evening, the same guy comes back in – with three TVs! He claimed they were all broken – including the one I had exchanged earlier that day. He said one was missing its plug. I had a look, the plug looked like it had been cut off. The other two boxes looked to still be sealed. He gave me all three receipts – the TVs were all bought the same day, all paid for with cash. This was definitely suspicious behaviour and we were taught to keep an eye out for possible money laundering. So, I called my manager, attempting to communicate that there was something suspicious afoot. Unfortunately, because of where the phone was, I couldn’t say over the phone because the person bringing the TV back was in earshot. I met my manager as he came down and relaid my suspicions.

To his credit, he did back me up. He agreed it was suspicious, but the customer was insistent that we refund, and he refused to leave until we did, becoming more irate. In an attempt to defuse the situation, he contacted head office. They instructed us to refund the one that had the plug cut off, but not the other two. My manager relaid the info, causing another outburst from the customer.

My manager then made the decision to phone the store manager, who was not in the building. He told her what was going on, and what head office had said.

Much to my utter incredulity, the store manager said head office was wrong and that we were to refund all three televisions! This is the same head office that sets the policy in the first place, and the store manager had just overruled them.

I was forced to give them a full refund, mark all three televisions as faulty, and then log them on the system. The customer got their £750 back. To this day, I am certain this was all a money-laundering scheme – especially since we checked the two unopened TVs and they worked perfectly. The third definitely looked like somebody had been at the power cable with a pair of scissors. I actually did mention this in the defective logs – and who ordered us to process these as faulty despite it being obvious they were not actually faulty televisions.

So much for that ‘ethics and integrity’ that they drum into us during our training.