Monday, June 21, 2010

Steal 1 Fine 10

The A & N Food Market on Main Street in Flushing, Queens, has an almost entirely Chinese clientele. The inventory ranges from live eels, turtles and frogs, to frozen duck tongue and canned congee. These goods, like products sold in every store in every neighborhood of the city, attract their share of shoplifters. But A & N Food Market has its own way of dealing with the problem.

First, suspected shoplifters caught by the store’s security guards or staff members have their identification seized. Then, they are photographed holding up the items they are accused of trying to steal. Finally, workers at the store threaten to display the photographs to embarrass them and call the police — unless the accused thieves hand over money.

“We usually fine them $400,” said Tem Shieh, 60, the manager, who keeps track of customers on 30 video monitors in the store’s surveillance system. “If they don’t have the money, then we usually hold their identification and give them a chance to go get it.”

The practice of catching suspected shoplifters and demanding payment is an import from China, several experts in retail loss prevention said, where there is a traditional slogan that some storekeeper’s post: “Steal one, fine 10.” Whether this practice is legal in the United States is open to interpretation.

New York State law allows “shopkeepers’ privileges” that fall somewhere between the police and a citizen’s arrest. The law also details “civil recovery statutes,” by which retailers may use the threat of a civil lawsuit to legally recover substantial settlements for even minor thievery. But threatening to report that someone has committed a crime can be considered a form of extortion.
Read the rest here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

O don't see how that could be legal, but I bet it cuts down on shoplifting. If one were truly innocent, he wouldn't mind the shop calling the police.