CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

December 27, 2010

Paying the Penalty for Retail Theft and Deception


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

PAYING THE PENALTY

FOR RETAIL THEFT AND DECEPTION

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     All I needed was an eight by ten manila envelope for an immediate project.

     I entered the dollar store, probably the only source in our small community, to purchase this item. I asked a clerk where to find the envelopes, headed to the appropriate counter, and located the product.  I quickly picked up the only one package on the shelf. Then I noticed its condition.

     The plastic wrap was torn. Counting the envelopes in the package I discovered that two-thirds of the contents were missing—there were four envelopes, not the six designated on the sticker.

     I took the package over to the clerk I’d spoken to and asked her if she was the store manager.

     “Yes,” she said.

     I showed her what I’d found, fully expecting a reduction on the price of the package.

     “I’ll have to put it in with the damaged goods,” she said, indicating the product was no longer purchasable.

     “I’m willing to pay for the envelopes that are there,” I said.

     “I can’t do that. I have to put them back and they will be out at a reduced price in several days.”

     “I need the envelopes now,” I said.

     “Try going to the grocery store. They might have some.”

     I’d understood from a reliable source that that store’s policy was to mark down damaged goods, so I argued with the clerk.

     “That’s a lot to ask when I need just one envelope now.”

     “I can’t sell them. They have to go back to damaged goods. They will probably be pitched,” she said this go-round.

      “If they are going to pitch them, why don’t you just give me one envelope?”

     “That would be stealing!”

     “I suppose you’d let me purchase them if I pay full price?”

     “If that’s what you want to do.”

     I went to the checkout and pointed out the damaged goods to the clerk, just to be ornery.

     “You can have them for fifty per cent off,” the clerk responded.

     “That’s not what the manager said,” I responded, surprised.

     “Well, I guess if you spoke to the manager, I can’t do that.”

     I ended up paying full price for the envelopes, but I had what I needed immediately.

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    It wasn’t the price of the item that bothered me. It was the principle. I’d found damaged goods, located the manager, explained the situation to her in a nice manner, and was told I couldn’t purchase the product. I was a bit miffed.

     Later I spoke with a higher up in that retail business, describing the store manager’s stubborn stance. He said the manager should have drawn a red line through the UPC code and sold it for half price.

      “I recognize there is a lot of theft in the store, but do I have to pay the price of thievery?” I asked.

     I’d already heard about the high theft in the store chain. Now I was to hear of one of the theft techniques.

     “Customers come into the store and rip open packages, asking to have fifty per cent taken off the item’s price.”

     It happens frequently with diapers, he said.

     “The customer will rip open the package, remove a couple of diapers, and ask for the fifty per cent discount.”

     “Oh,” I said. “I bet that store manager thought I’d ripped open the package.”

     I’d played right into the thievery pattern, been caught in its web, by taking the package to the manager instead of going directly to the checkout and showing the clerk the damage.

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     This is just one example of how the honest customer pays a price for thievery, which is perpetrated from all levels of society. Raised prices due to shop lifting rains its penalties on the just and the unjust. 

     Honest customers also pay for thievery (deception) from the corporate/retail side of merchandising. We not only had this happen at a local drugstore (click on    to read about that experience), we also experienced it at a major building supply store, where we purchased a washer and drier set.

     The set was delivered, and I ran a load of clothes through the washer. While taking them out to hang up, I noticed a powdery residue inside the washer. Since I use a liquid detergent, this aroused my suspicion.

     “Look,” I told my husband, Monte, and my daughter Sandy (who just happened to be visiting). “Something’s fishy here.”

     A couple of minutes later Sandy said “There’s lint in the drier.”

     I hadn’t used the drier yet—most of the time I hang my clothes, using the natural climate to dry them. But on close examination, we all confirmed that yes, there was lint in the drier.

     Obviously, we had unknowingly purchased a used washer and drier.

     Monte and I returned to the store for an explanation. The looks on the two clerks faces—they were the same ones who sold us the machines—told us that they knew why we were returning. We explained, anyway.

     “We thought you knew they were used,” they said. “We saw you looking at them.”

     Duh! Of course we looked at them, but we weren’t examining them for previous use. They were supposedly new machines.

     “There’s nothing wrong with them,” we were told. “The previous owner had them very briefly before they decided to upgrade to a more expensive set.”

     Double Duh!

     The store did exchange the washer and drier—we couldn’t help but consider that the reason the machines were returned was that there was a problem, and we didn’t want to inherit that problem.

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     Integrity seems to be undervalued in our society. Dishonesty, deception is systemic. And it’s the person with integrity pays the penalty—in suspicion, higher prices, loss of privacy (hidden cameras everywhere—Big Brother is watching you). Each incident blocks us in further.

     Meanwhile, the stores lose, the customers lose—and ultimately, society loses. It’s such a tangled web we all get tangled up, and all each side can do is to complain, verbally and with the written word. So I welcome readers to share their experiences in the comment box below.

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ADDITIONAL READING:

THE HOLOCAUST STORY OF A TEENAGE VICTIM (Part 1)

WISDOM FROM A CHILD TO A GRANDPARENT

WORKPLACE STRESS REDUCTION ACTIVITIES: MORTIFYING AND FUN

LIZZIE BORDEN—A REENACTMENT

LOGGING IN MAINE AND ON THE PERU-BRAZILIAN BORDER

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