Društvo| Ekonomija

The Retail Guard

Chris Farmer RSS / 04.11.2013. u 14:30

The enemy is implacable, it is relentless.

When shopping for toys (toys!), I experienced a kind of outrage that very rarely befalls me. My curmudgeonly nature causes me to grumble and complain a lot and often, but very rarely does something, some behavior, drive me to the edge of tolerance. 

Toy shopping at Dexy Co (and I name them so as not to indict an entire industry) has approached this threshold.

 I walked into the store with my son, as we are wont to do, with an idea of browsing. My view on the myriad ranks of overpriced and over-specific toys available in Dexy and elsewhere is that they are rarely worth the prices asked. A toy's lifespan is measured in imagination-engagement, and a Spiderman figure which shoots webs at Venom serves its purpose in 7.23 minutes and is quickly abandoned thereafter. But the imagination is also sparked by viewing the shelves and seeing what is available.

As soon as we arrived at one particular aisle, an employee stationed itself next to us. Standing still, watching, and fewer than three meters from us. The employee (although I think soldier would be a better appellation) did not offer assistance. It did not open with the Izvolite Gambit, challenging our right to be in the store in the first place if we do not already know exactly what we want. It merely stationed itself next to us, intent on preventing us, the Implacable Enemy, from stealing.

The enemy is implacable, it is relentless.

Feeling under unwarranted scrutiny, I accosted it. I asked if we were ALLOWED to view the display of toys. Yes, it said. I asked if we were doing something WRONG. No, it said. So what are you doing here? It is my job, it said.

I raised my voice and told it to back away, to go stand somewhere else. I told it that it was making me feel uncomfortable. Clearly, it was not expecting my reaction and it drifted a few aisles away, looking offended. We continued our browsing and, inevitably, stumbled upon something that absolutely had to be bought to ensure the continued happiness of my son. I paid, and we left.

But the unspoken accusation of the Toy Soldier stayed with me. The principle of the thing is the problem. Its duty was to stay close to us. It operates on the assumption that ALL shoppers are potential criminals and that they would, left to their own unsupervised devices, rob the store blind. The assumption of malevolent intent is the stone in my shoe.

This incident happened several weeks ago. It recurred, however, yesterday, and my response was not to accost and frighten the Toy Soldier again (it was a new one) but I could not remain in the store. The tactic of self-protection engaged by Dexy Co has put an end to my continued custom - I will not be returning there to suffer the ignominy of their distrust and suspicion.

Shoplifting, I admit, is a problem for all retail. Some handle it by cameras and general vigilance. Most shops have electronic barriers that prevent people from walking out with ill-gotten gains. I cannot fault a shop for wanting to prevent that kind of inevitable crime. But the policy of stationing soldiers to guard the goods from shoppers crosses a line. I have seen this elsewhere, e.g., Vero supermarkets, and it always has the same effect on me.

The soldiers cannot engage an enemy which does not appear for the battle. The effect is that I take my business elsewhere.


Komentari (12)

Komentare je moguće postavljati samo u prvih 7 dana, nakon čega se blog automatski zaključava

iqiqiq iqiqiq 14:58 04.11.2013

CRM Strategy

"Guilty until proven otherwise"...

As your Serbian language knowledge is probably not so good, I can not recommend you to read some blogs here discussing that customer approach. "Customer orientated attitude" needs hugh improvement.

Please try not to criticize but to give some options useful to the improvement of this approach. Eg. how would you make it win win, so customers are happy (not feeling guilty as soon as they enter some store) but also making "security" invisible, so the store is secured against the loses caused by temptation of some clients to have a toy without paying.

Also some CSR would help, giving some toys to the poorest etc.
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 15:08 04.11.2013

Re: CRM Strategy

I have read many of them and experienced even more of them.

It is neither my civic responsibility nor my job to offer advice on how to change the world. On the other hand, I regard as my responsibility NOT to remain silent in the face of such situations.

Being critical is something that I believe must be defended. Too often do people accept as inevitable what could be easily remedied. It does not imply that the critic has all the answers, but perhaps it raises a flag for people who do.
iqiqiq iqiqiq 16:58 04.11.2013

Re: CRM Strategy

Ok, and what about writing directly to the management, you do not practice that as well? I am just asking, not judging

Dexy Co d.o.o.
Tošin Bunar 272
11070 Beograd
Tel. (+381 11) 715-98-20; Fax (+381 11) 655-79-52
E-mail: dexy@dexy.co.rs

Telefon za informacije i reklamacije:
(+381 11) 715-98-20
babmilos babmilos 15:29 04.11.2013


My view on the myriad ranks of overpriced and over-specific toys available in Dexy and elsewhere is that they are rarely worth the prices asked

This is an uderstatement. When someone sells for 100e something that I myself bought in US for 30 dollars (full price, no discount), then there is only one word for it: cold blooded robbery. Unfortunately, in Serbia toy market is in hands of one man, just like cellphone and IT market - every toy store has everything that all other have, nothing more and nothing less.
blue rider blue rider 15:36 04.11.2013

It's not so bad

You know that's how many companies operate (presuming everyone is guilty until proven so). Take a look at nsa for example. Or visa where teams of people don't trust you at all and verify your financial activities. Or google, or or or... Some people are physically next to you so you get pissed since you feel them. The best thing is just to tell em to buzz off. Or move your business elsewhere. No need to get frustrated.
yugaya yugaya 18:17 04.11.2013

toy store story

I had an ugly experience in a toy store when an employee prevented my toddler from playing with one of those Fisher Price toys (the musical ones that have *TRY ME* written on the box) by physically grabbing the toy off the shelf and raising her voice at the kid.

Apparently sadistic tendencies that can be best exhibited by snatching toys from one and a half year olds and leaving them in tears are a bonus when they screen for shop employees.
rade.radumilo rade.radumilo 23:27 04.11.2013

Cruel Solution

The shoplifting in stores in Serbia is handled with cameras, buzzers (it took us a whole month to discover why my wife buzzes whenever she walks through a shop door. Meanwhile we found and removed over a dozen buzzers from most unbelievable places), but mostly it is handled by a simple cruel solution:
If anything is missing (or is damaged) at the end of a period, the employees in the shop must pay for it out of their own pocket. The only allowance they are given is that they can divide the total sum of loss between themselves.
What you saw that day wasn't a soldier on duty, but a desperate person whose shameful monthly paycheck is further, regularly depleted by shoplifters.
maksa83 maksa83 04:39 05.11.2013

Re: Cruel Solution

What you saw that day wasn't a soldier on duty, but a desperate person whose shameful monthly paycheck is further, regularly depleted by shoplifters.

I'm as annoyed as Chris when I'm being followed but I don't think that anybody working in retail is actually enjoying it - it's demeaning both for the guard and the customer. Retail jobs are low wage jobs, they're easily replaceable and as such mistreated by the owner in many ways. He's just a guy/girl trying to make a living.

I think that Chris doesn't properly appreciate all the perks of being a white guy in a whites mostly shopping mall. Sure beats being a black guy shopping at Macy's.
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 10:59 05.11.2013

Re: Cruel Solution

What you saw that day wasn't a soldier on duty, but a desperate person whose shameful monthly paycheck is further, regularly depleted by shoplifters.

And as in battle, the argument is not with the soldier (although it was the proximate cause) but with the fat generals who sent him there. If the guards are indeed forced to pay for shoplifting losses, then the vicious circle is complete.
rade.radumilo rade.radumilo 15:15 05.11.2013

Re: Cruel Solution

but with the fat generals who sent him there

I think it's the politicians that started the war. Here, they've created the mess with upside down employment system. Actually they've created the mess with entire country.
From there you got: conscript soldiers, pirate generals etc.
inco inco 20:22 06.11.2013

As the saying goes...

"Niko nema što Srbin imade, što nemade to rado ukrade."

Unfortunately, this country has fallen from grace quite some time ago - if I was to be facetious I could claim that Serbia is not a country or that we were never 'in grace' - and that has some serious repercussions. One of them is that thievery has become a national sport of a sort, certainly practiced by the majority and tolerated by almost everybody.

I'm not talking only about shoplifting, pickpocketing, (armed) robbery and such direct examples of thievery - fortunately the vast majority of citizens still have some shame (or fear?) left in them not to engage in those - I'm talking about all examples of unrightful acquiring of goods or services. From fixing tenders and stealing en masse on public procurements so well established by our politicians down to the workers stealing nuts and bolts from their factories. From politicians taking their mistresses on 'business trips' under the pretense of doing public good to your regular Joe who will come up with a thousand excuses for not paying for the mass transit. Not to mention widely practiced tax evasion, grey market and economy and similar... I don't want to claim that Serbia is the worst place on the planet, far from it, but I dare you to find another country where manhole covers have to be welded shut so that they don't get stolen (and some citizen breaking his/her neck by 'stepping' on a missing cover).

In such environment, shop owners have to take a great care at protecting their goods so it's not surprising that whenever you enter a shop you feel as if somebody has eyes on your back all the time. I knew quite a few shop owners and heard from them some unbelievable stories regarding the magnitude of shoplifting that occurs each and every day. It can go up to 10% of the daily revenue, in dependence of the shop type. Once they've caught a guy who had a magnetic stripper used for removing those ugly security tags from clothes - he claimed he purchased it openly on Buvljak

Cameras can be useful in letting customers feel more comfortable but it's hard (and expensive) to cover the whole shop properly, especially if it's a busy shop, and even then there are good thieves which know how to work out from the camera angles how to steal without being noticed. Not to mention that many shop owners buy mockery cameras in an attempt to at least keep the 'rookies' and junkies away from trying to rob them.

And then there is the law where the state will not prosecute anyone who steals less than 15,000 RSD of value (they said they'll lower this value but I don't remember passing that law change) which in many parts of the country is almost a monthly wage. If you, as a shop owner, can prove that somebody stole from you less than that amount you might take them to a civil court but with our court system it will probably cost you quite more than what was stolen from you in the first place and there is always a chance that you won't be alive by the time the process completes.

Thus, having the clerks keeping a close eye on the customers is still the best shoplifting prevention method there is. To make that work, as I'm sure that the clerks don't really enjoy being policemen in their shops, shop owners usually make that as a job obligation so you can lose your job or you'll have to repay everything that was stolen from your salary. The latter is commonly practiced not only to prevent shoplifting by thieves, but also by the clerks themselves - some shop owners I knew didn't want to punish their employees for the mischiefs of others only to catch some of them stealing and attributing that to non-existing thieves.

Who should we blame? Politicians and the society in general. You can blame the clerk for being rude, or the shop / shop owner for outrageous pricing, but you really cannot blame them individually for trying to protect the goods from thieves the best way they can. You might not be a thief, but the clerk cannot read your mind to discern if you are there to shop or to rob, so they're just playing it safe. Keep that in mind the next time you feel the stark look on your back in some other shop...
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 22:17 06.11.2013

Re: As the saying goes...

This is a very neatly constructed justification for anything which could possibly happen. We are supposed to be understanding of the thieves (because of their social conditioning, history, etc.) and understanding of stationing soldiers (because of their lack of choices against the products of social conditioning). And understanding of the soldiers themselves because they are just doing their jobs.

In this scenario, no one in this chain of events has to take responsibility for anything. The thieves are FORCED into it. The shop owners are FORCED to make questionable policies. And the guards are FORCED to take jobs with the shop owners and therefore enforce the shop owners’ policies against the socially impaired thieves.

Sorry, this will not do.

Shop owners can employ any of many different known ways to deter shoplifting but must accept that a certain percentage of merchandise will disappear anyway. 10%, as far as I have seen, is a rather average write-off.

Trying to discourage shoplifters while making the customers feel uncomfortable is fully self-defeating because it will lead to shorter shopping times and diminishing purchases. Fewer losses, fewer sales.

And there are nothing supporting the idea that shoplifters in Serbia are more prolific or cunning than in any other country. Theives have to be cunning. It is part of their job. One website has suggested moreover that 1 in every 11 Americans is a shoplifter.

So let’s not hide behind excuses. Criminality exists and must be fought. A shop owner must do that without alienating his source of income, his customers. If he cannot, the customer will move on. They have no need to be understanding.



Kategorije aktivne u poslednjih 7 dana