Opinion: Shoplifting Brushes (Marc Jan Ahne)

POSTED: 09/14/11 12:06 PM

To say that Marc Jan Ahne had a brush with the law is probably an understatement. Ahne, an alderman in the Executive Council of the municipality of Deventer seems to be a hands-on guy, given the fact that he went to a hardware store recently to buy some painting supplies. He strolled through the store, found some pain brushes he needed and put them in the pockets of his pants.
When he left the store, after paying for his other stuff, he forgot to pay for the brushes. The hardware store noticed, because an alarm went off as soon as Ahne stepped outside.
We don’t know why the store owner called the police, fact is that he did. Maybe he did not belong to Ahne’s party, who knows. Same thing could happen to Frans Richardson, or anybody else for that matter, who forgets to pay something in a store run by a sympathizer of a different political party.
Come to think of it, only recently we left the Kangaroo Court after having enjoyed a cup of coffee. Did the owner call the police? Nope. Actually when we went back later to the same establishment to order another cuppa, we suddenly realized that we had not paid the first one – so we quickly informed the bartender and ponied up. Only in St. Maarten.
But in Deventer they do things differently. The police got involved, and the alderman got his mug in the newspapers for an attempt to steal a couple of paint brushes. Then, the case landed on the desk of the public prosecutor’s office.
After investigating the story, the prosecutor wisely decided that the fuss wasn’t worth his time and he dropped the case.
While we think that shoplifting is a serious yet undervalued problem in any society, the Deventer hardware store seems to have overreacted a little bit. It would have been different if the alderman had made a fuss and if he had taken the do-you-know-who-I-am attitude. But that did not happen. The store-alarm scared the bejesus out of the man, more so when he sheepishly discovered that he had walked out with the brushes without paying for them.
Many people will know that feeling: a store alarm goes off just as you step outside and the first thought that comes to mind is: is that for me? When beefy security guards approach panic sets in, followed by relief when these guys go after someone else. But the truth is, this could happen to anybody – and it does not always happen with bad intent.
So how do retailers deal with shop lifting? We know for sure that there are industry figures that give a reliable insight in the percentage of items that are stolen from, say, a supermarket every year. Putting a security guard at every corner will give customers the funny feeling that they are valued, but not trusted. That’s bad for business.
Solution? Very simple. If shoplifters make off with, say 5 percent of the merchandise (we’re talking value here), prices for honest customers go up by the same number.
If a store sells for $100, but it gets in only $95 due to theft, making up the difference by adding 5 percent to the prices won’t even be noticed.
Rather than invest in better security, retailers routinely charge their honest customers to cover the damages caused by shoplifters. This way, shoplifting does not disturb the shopping experience of others. But once customers realize that this is happening, their perception about the price of tomatoes tends to change.

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